Blinken in Israel for 2nd time since conflict erupted

Oct 16 (IANS) For a second time since the raging Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on October 7, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday arrived in Tel Aviv, where he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish nation’s war management cabinet.

The US top diplomat was in Israel last week in a show of support from the Biden administration as it seeks to reinforce the country’s defences and prevent the conflict from escalating further, reports CNN.He was the first senior US administration to visit the war-torn nation.Earlier in the day, Blinken said in a post on X:”We stand with Israel as it defends itself. The United States is also actively working to ensure the people of Gaza can get out of harm’s way and the assistance they need — food, water, medicine — can get in.Hamas does not care if Palestinians suffer.”On Sunday, Blinken had promised the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt “will be open” and that the US was working with the UN, Egypt, Israel and others to coordinate aid efforts.The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only remaining outlet for supplies, has been closed for much of the past week and as a result, the Hamas-controlled enclave is facing a critical humanitarian crisis, with shortages of water, electricity, food, fuel and medicine.On Monday however, Israel denied reports that it had agreed to a ceasefire in southern Gaza to allow the Rafah border crossing to open to let aid into the Hamas-controlled enclave.“At the moment there is no ceasefire for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the exit of foreigners,” The Times of Israel quoted a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau’s office.Earlier, reports said that Israel had agreed to halt fire from 9 a.m. in a deal agreed on with Egypt and the US.The Hamas has also said that it did not have any information about the proposed humanitarian truce at the Rafah border crossing.Meanwhile, tonnes of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza have been piling up on the Egyptian side of the border, CNN reported.On Sunday, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said that Gaza is rapidly running out of water and electricity, and the population faces severe shortages of food and medicine.