WASHINGTON -- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an emphatic appeal Friday for "humanitarian pauses" in the fighting between Israel and the Hamas militant group in Gaza, saying they would facilitate efforts to bring aid to the besieged enclave and secure the release of hostages.
Blinken addressed a press conference in Tel Aviv after he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials on a trip to reiterate the United States' support for Israel, ensure the sustained flow of assistance for civilians in Gaza and find ways to set free an estimated 240 hostages.
But Netanyahu expressed his opposition to a temporary ceasefire without the release of Israeli hostages, according to reports.
"We believe each of these efforts would be facilitated by humanitarian pauses -- by arrangements on the ground that increase security for civilians and permit the more effective and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance," Blinken said.
As for the US call for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war, Blinken said a number of questions were raised during his talks with Israeli officials, including how to use pauses to maximize the flow of aid to Gaza, how to connect pauses to the release of hostages and how to ensure that Hamas does not use pauses to its advantage.
"These are the issues that we need to tackle urgently and we believe that can be solved," he said.
Criticizing the brutality of Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, Blinken gave a sketchy picture of what the post-war Gaza may look like though he said it is "premature to get into detail."
"There cannot and must not be a return to the pre-Oct. 7 status quo ... and that means that the idea of Hamas remaining responsible for governance, such as it was, and posing an ongoing and direct threat to Israel is unacceptable," he said.
"We also know that Israel cannot reassume control and responsibility for Gaza," he added, noting that Israel has made it clear it has no intention or desire to do so.
The secretary also underscored the importance of putting the issue into a "bigger" picture for achieving "enduring and lasting" peace in the region.
The "best" and "only" path to achieve that goal is through "two states for two peoples," he said.
"That is the only way to ensure lasting security for a Jewish and democratic Israel and the only way to ensure that Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations for a state of their own," he said.
Amid the US emphasis on the protection of civilians in Gaza, Israeli President Isaac Herzog underscored his country's efforts to curb civilian damage.
"We are sending over one million and two hundred leaflets to the citizens of Gaza," he told reporters as he met with Blinken. "We've carried out six million text messages and four million phone calls to the citizens of Gaza according to the rules of international law."
Meanwhile, the US government announced a new package of arms and equipment -- worth up to $125 million in total -- for Ukraine in an apparent message that Washington's support for Ukraine will not wane despite escalating tensions in the Middle East.
"Until Russia ends this war by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks, the United States and the coalition we have built of more than 50 countries will continue to stand with Ukraine," Blinken said in a statement. (Yonhap)