Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken claimed on Sunday that Hamas has stopped the departure of foreign nationals from the Gaza Strip, adding that Egypt is ready to help evacuate people and provide aid to the region.
Blinken was interviewed by Al-Arabiya’s Randa Abul Azm on Sunday, who asked the secretary about efforts to move civilians out of harm’s way in Gaza as Israel mounts a ground offensive.
Azm prefaced a question to Blinken about the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the evacuation of foreign nationals by saying, “Efforts to remove foreign nationals from the Gaza Strip have been blocked by the Israelis.”
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Blinken had a different take on the matter.
“Israel does not prevent the departure of foreign nationals,” he said. “The problem is that Hamas has disrupted it and, of course, we have to make the necessary arrangements.”
He went on to say that Egyptian authorities are ready to assist in the departure of citizens and foreign nationals.
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“At the same time, Egypt is fully prepared – and we are working with them – to receive aid,” Blinken said. “And we’re putting a system in place – we’re working with the United Nations, we’re working with Egypt, we’re working with other countries – to make sure that aid can get to Gaza, get to the people who need it.”
The secretary accused Hamas of harming civilians, knowing its actions would bring “a strong reaction” but going ahead with its attack anyway.
“And the reality is this: What is Hamas doing? “Hamas makes sure that all of its critical leaders, its command centers, its weapons, its ammunition are all in residential areas, in residential buildings or buried under hospitals, schools and supermarkets,” Blinken said. “They know – they’re using the Palestinians of Gaza as human shields, and that’s also shameful.”
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Several countries have begun to express concern over the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as Israel prepares to invade the territory after it fell victim to a surprise attack by Hamas-led terrorists.
Discussions on humanitarian aid to Gaza have taken place at various levels, with an urgent need to move “as quickly as possible on the critical issue of humanitarian access to Gaza”.
At least 3,200 people have been killed since Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel last week, including at least 1,300 Israeli civilians and soldiers and 27 Americans. Palestinian health authorities say at least 2,215 Palestinians have been killed and more than 8,700 injured.
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On Friday, Israel issued a warning to residents of northern Gaza to evacuate the area within 24 hours as a “humanitarian step” aimed at “minimizing civilian casualties” during its planned ground offensive in the area.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the cumulative number of displaced people has exceeded 338,000, “over two-thirds of whom are taking shelter in schools run by UNRWA,” citing the UNRWA Relief and Works Agency. Aid to Palestine. in the Near East.
The US has urged Israel to delay the start of the operation to allow the 1.1 million people living in the north to relocate. President Biden and Blinken have repeatedly emphasized the need for Israel to abide by the “rules of war.”
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The US reiterated that Hamas is responsible for the current atrocities and does not reflect the Palestinian people, who must be protected.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for access through Rafah in a speech on Thursday, but also warned against allowing large numbers of Palestinians to enter.
“The threat there is significant because it means the liquidation of this (Palestinian) case,” El-Sisi said at a military college graduation ceremony in Cairo. “It is important for her people to stand firm and exist on her land.”
Egypt’s foreign ministry later called the evacuation order a “serious violation” of international law.
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Egyptian officials have long feared that Israel is seeking to make their country responsible for Palestinians in Gaza, which Egypt ruled between the Middle East wars of 1948 and 1967. Egypt has joined Israel in blocking the Strip. of Gaza since the Hamas takeover, strictly controlling the entry of supplies and the exit of people.
Fox News Digital’s Peter Aitken contributed to this report.