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Blinken urges Netanyahu not to attack Rafah as cease-fire resolution fails at the U.N.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday.
Evelyn Hockstein
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday.

Updated March 22, 2024 at 3:16 PM ET

TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday not to launch an assault on Rafah, in the last leg of his whistle-stop regional tour to push for a cease-fire in Gaza.

This latest stop was Blinken's sixth time in the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that it said killed some 1,200 people and triggered the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip. The death toll from that campaign has exceeded 32,000 people, the Gaza healthy ministry said Friday.

It came as Netanyahu mulls further military operations in Rafah, and as cease-fire and hostage release talks between Israeli and Hamas authorities continue in Doha, Qatar.

Washington has been warning against such an Israeli offensive in the southern city of Gaza, where more than a million displaced Palestinians have taken shelter from months of fighting.

"It risks killing more civilians. It risks wreaking greater havoc with the provision of humanitarian assistance. It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long term security and standing," Blinken said after his meeting with the Israeli leader and his war cabinet.

But Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to go into Rafah with or without U.S. backing.

"I also said that we have no way to defeat Hamas without going into Rafah and eliminating the rest of the battalions there. And I told him that I hope we will do it with the support of the U.S., but if we have to — we will do it alone," Netanyahu said in a statement.

The visit coincided with a United Nations Security Council vote Friday morning that resulted in a failed new resolution on the Israel-Hamas war.

The U.S. proposed language calling for an immediate and sustained cease-fire tied to a hostage release — the first time the U.S. proposed such language. Russia and China exercised their veto power to reject the resolution that came to a vote of 11 in favor, three against and one abstention.

The U.S.has vetoed previous resolutions on the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., slammed Moscow and Beijing for their veto.

"Russia and China refuse to condemn Hamas for burning people alive, for gunning innocent civilians at a concert, for raping women and girls for taking hundreds of people of hostage," she said.

Before stopping in Israel, Blinken made appearances elsewhere in the Middle East including in Egypt where he met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for talks on a potential cease-fire in Gaza.

Of those talks, Blinken said, "There's still difficult work to get there, but I continue to believe it's possible."

NPR's James Hider contributed to this report. contributed to this story

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Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.