Blinken is in Jordan to discuss aid to Gaza

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited a warehouse in Jordan on Tuesday where workers were loading trucks for the first attempt to send medical and food aid overland from Jordan to the Israel-Gaza border crossing in Erez. He praised the start of the new aid corridor and also said a pier built by the US military to bring aid to the Gaza coast by sea would be operational in about a week.

“This is real and important progress, but there is still a lot to do,” he told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week. “And in particular, we need to make sure that our focus is not on inputs, but on impact and on actually measuring whether the help that people need is getting to them effectively.”

The distribution of aid in Gaza has been a challenge, especially in the devastated northern part of the Strip. This is made more difficult by the fact that the Biden administration recently said that the United States stopped giving money to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the main humanitarian agency operating in the Strip, after Israel accused some of its workers to take part in the October 7 attacks in southern Israel.

The trucks heading to Erez are organized by the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, and aid has been donated by various international groups. The first of these trucks was expected to leave the warehouse near the city of Zarqa, Jordan, on Tuesday night and arrive in Erez on Wednesday, when Mr. Blinken will be in Israel to speak with Israeli officials. Workers load wooden pallets containing aid boxes onto trucks using forklifts.

Shortly before arriving at the warehouse in the early evening, Mr. Blinken met with several Palestinian women who had left Gaza during the war and who still have family members there.

“I felt the suffering that they endured and that their friends and family continue to endure every day,” Mr. Blinken said.

Blinken also called on Hamas to commit to a deal to release some civilian hostages in exchange for a temporary ceasefire and the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners.

The Biden administration is trying to increase pressure on Hamas to accept the deal. Israeli officials said this week they were willing to lower their request for the number of hostages in the event of an initial release from 40 to 33.

Blinken discussed the proposed deal during meetings in Saudi Arabia on Monday and again in Jordan on Tuesday. He planned to do the same in Israel on Wednesday, according to State Department officials.

After arriving in Jordan on Tuesday afternoon, Blinken first went to separate meetings with Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and King Abdullah II.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said Blinken and the Jordanian king discussed the ceasefire proposal along with Jordan's humanitarian contributions to Gaza.

On his seventh trip to the Middle East since the war began last October, Blinken and his aides sought to work through a range of issues, including Israel's continued need for American weapons, the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and a plan for a political solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Before heading to the aid warehouse on Tuesday, Mr. Blinken also met with Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations coordinator for Gaza, to discuss humanitarian aid needs in Gaza.

“This is a critical moment to ensure that everything that needs to be done actually gets done,” Blinken said at the start of the meeting.

In talks with Jordanian officials, Blinken also spoke about issues involving the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Biden administration has called for a more technocratic Palestinian Authority, which is seen by many Palestinians as authoritarian and corrupt, in the hope that it could help govern post-war Gaza – an idea the Israeli government opposes. Jordanian officials have close ties to Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the authority, and other prominent Palestinians in the organization. Mr. Blinken did not meet Mr. Abbas during his trip.

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