U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, following an earlier meeting with President Isaac Herzog

Blinken reportedly stressed that the Biden administration opposes an IDF operation in Rafah and also spoke about the "importance of accelerating and sustaining” the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

U.S. Spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken “emphasized that it is Hamas that is standing in the way of a ceasefire.” 

According to the Axios news outlet, Netanyahu told Blinken that Israel will proceed with a Rafah operation soon if Hamas continues to condition the release of Israeli hostages upon ending the war.

Netanyahu noted that Israel would not agree to conditions regarding a military incursion into Rafah.

Axios stated the U.S. administration's opposition to the IDF operation in Rafah stems mainly from concerns about the absence of a credible plan for evacuating civilians from the area and ensuring their safety.

Other top Israeli and U.S. leaders later attended an expanded meeting on Wednesday. On the Israeli side, those in attendance included, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Director Tzachi Hanegbi, the Prime Minister's Chief-of-Staff Yossi Fuchs, the Prime Minister's Military Secretary and his successor, the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Advisor Ophir Falk, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, On the American side, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jacob Lew, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, and Special Envoy on Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield were in attendance.

In comments on Tuesday, Blinken said the current hostage deal proposal “is the best way, the most effective way, to really deal with the suffering of people and also to create an environment in which we can hopefully move forward to something that’s really sustainable.” 

Reports in Hebrew media claimed that Blinken and Netanyahu also discussed a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, with Blinken telling Netanyahu that “the chances of normalization with Saudi Arabia will be low” without a Gaza ceasefire. 

Ynet News reported that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with Blinken. A Palestinian source told Ynet: "Every time Blinken visits Ramallah, he makes promises that he never keeps, that's why Abu Mazen [Abbas] asked not to coordinate any meeting with him and wanted to express his protest against the non-fulfillment of his past promises, especially at this time.” 

Blinken reportedly never announced a meeting with Abbas as part of his Middle East itinerary. 

Read the full article at All Israel News.

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