Accessibility links

Breaking News

Blinken: Military operation in Rafah would have 'terrible consequences' for civilians

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves after a press conference at the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, April 19, 2024.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves after a press conference at the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, April 19, 2024.

The Biden administration "cannot support a major military operation in Rafah," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference Friday at the G7 meeting in Italy.

"First, there are currently somewhere around 1.4 million people in Rafah — many of them displaced from other parts of Gaza. It's imperative that people are able to get out of the way of any conflict, and doing so is a monumental task for which we have yet to see a plan," Blinken said. "Not only getting them out of harm's way but making sure that they can be supported with humanitarian assistance."

Blinken also said that even if people are largely out of harm's way, inevitably a major military operation would have "terrible consequences" for the civilians remaining there.

A White House statement said that, in a discussion Thursday, Israeli officials had agreed to consider U.S. concerns about their planned military operations in the southern Gaza city.

Israel continues bombarding Gaza

Meanwhile, Israeli bombardment from the air, land and sea was reported across much of the Gaza Strip, resulting in civilian casualties, displacement and destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure.

In a briefing Thursday to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for greater humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

"To avert imminent famine, and further preventable deaths from disease, we need a quantum leap in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza," he said. " … Delivering aid at scale requires Israel's full and active facilitation of humanitarian operations."

Guterres also said Israel's commitments to improve aid access in Gaza have had "limited and sometimes nil" impact.

The fighting, destruction of roads, and prevalence of unexploded ordinance pose significant risks for humanitarian workers struggling to provide aid supplies in Gaza, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs reported.

"The agency warns that the only way to halt famine is through daily deliveries of food supplies," Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general, told reporters Thursday. "This requires conditions that allow humanitarian staff and supplies to move freely — and the people in need to access assistance safely."

The U.S. and Israel say access to aid has improved this month. Food trucks entered Gaza through the Erez crossing from Israel's Ashdod Port for the first time since Israel approved its opening for aid shipments, the Israeli military said Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates said Friday it had launched a major relief operation in the Gaza Strip's destroyed city of Khan Younis and plans to restore the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis so that it "can return to work," the WAM news agency said.

Recent U.N.-led missions into 10 of Gaza's beleaguered hospitals found many "in ruins" with only a few carrying out any level of maternal health services and their vital medical equipment purposefully destroyed, according to Dominic Allen, the U.N. Population Fund representative for the State of Palestine.

UNICEF also reports that every 10 minutes, one child is killed or injured in Gaza, based on figures by the Hamas-run health ministry, emphasizing the urgent need to increase medical evacuations of children.

Iran calls veto 'irresponsible'

On Friday, Tehran denounced the U.S. veto on Thursday blocking full United Nations membership for Palestinians, calling it "irresponsible" given the lack of opposition from any other Security Council member.

Hamas also decried the decision, while the Palestinian Authority said it showed "the contradictions of American policy," which claims to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but at the same time "prevents the implementation of this solution."

On Thursday evening, the United States cast a veto at the Security Council to block the United Nations from recognizing a Palestinian state. The United Kingdom and Switzerland abstained, and the remaining 12 council members voted yes.

U.N. chief Guterres warned of a potential escalation of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, pointing out that Israel's military offensive in Gaza has turned the Palestinian territory into a "humanitarian hellscape."

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israeli military actions have killed nearly 34,000 Palestinians since the war began. The ministry says two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

Israel launched its offensive in response to the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures. Militants also took about 250 people hostage.

In November, more than 100 hostages were released as part of a four-day pause in the fighting. Israel says about 130 hostages remain in captivity but one-quarter of them are dead. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., EU and others.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.