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Blinken seeks aid breakthrough amid air raid sirens in Israel

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Blinken seeks aid breakthrough amid air raid sirens in Israel
October 16, 2023
Humeyra Pamuk - Reuters

By Humeyra Pamuk

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took shelter with Benjamin Netanyahu in a bunker during an air raid alert, a U.S official said, as the U.S. top diplomat returned to Israel on Monday in hopes of securing progress on the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Blinken is also seeking to prevent the conflict spreading as he travels around the Middle East in the aftermath of Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,300 people.

Israel has responded with an intense bombing campaign and has amassed tanks at the border of the Hamas-controlled Gaza in preparation for a ground offensive, amid rising concern for civilians who are unable to leave the besieged strip.

Hamas has frequently launched rocket attacks at Israel.

During a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Blinken and Prime Minister Netanyahu were forced to shelter in a bunker for five minutes after sirens rang out, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Speaking to reporters after an earlier meeting with Blinken, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, "This will be a long war; the price will be high. But we are going to win for Israel and the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in."

Blinken was in Egypt on Sunday, where he said the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing into Gaza would soon reopen, but a deal to allow aid in and for some foreign citizens to leave had not yet materialized.

Miller said Blinken discussed humanitarian coordination with Netanyahu at an earlier meeting.

Washington has moved an aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean and is set to move another carrier to the region in coming days, moves Blinken has said are meant as a deterrent, not a provocation.

The United States has told some troops, potentially 2,000, to be ready to deploy within 24 hours if notified — instead of the usual 96 hours — to the region and could include units that provide assistance like medical aid if needed, a U.S. official said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Jasper Ward and Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Lisa Shumaker)

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