Despite calls for ceasefire, the US administration approved a potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, a decision that democrats are working to block.
The comments were made during a phone call between the two officials on Wednesday, in which Blinken stressed that Washington expects Israel to end its “operation” in Gaza, amid global calls and efforts to reach a ceasefire.
However, Ashkenazi said Tel Aviv needs “more days” to “achieve its military goals”.
The report said Blinken also told Ashkenazi that the US was blocking a French initiative set to push for a resolution at the UN Security Council for a ceasefire in Gaza where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air raids.
This would be the third Security Council statement on Gaza to be blocked by Washington despite its own calls for a ceasefire.
US President Joe Biden has held a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz.
Meanwhile other reports state that senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk told Lebanese media that there could be a ceasefire within days.
“I think that the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed,” the Hamas political official told Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV.
“I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”
An Egyptian security source also said that there was an agreement on the principles of the ceasefire by all sides, with more secret negotiations taking place as Israel continues its offensive on Gaza.
However, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Tel Aviv’s public radio, “Kan” that a ceasefire would not be achieved on Friday.
“No. We are definitely seeing very significant international pressure…we will finish the operation when we decide we have attained our goals,” said Cohen.
Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera report said UN Middle East Peace Envoy Tor Wennesland was in meetings with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar.
Earlier this week, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani held a phone call with Blinken about the ongoing Israeli violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The diplomats spoke about “efforts to restore calm in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, in light of the tragic loss of civilian life”, according to the US Department of State.
The statement from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MoFA] said Al Thani called for “urgent action by the international community to stop the repeated brutal Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Despite Doha, Cairo and Riyadh’s foreign ministers’ discussions with Blinken, there have been no signs of progress, with Netanyahu continuing to carry out airstrikes on Gaza. Hundreds of unarmed families and children have been killed.
US arms sales
Despite the mounting death toll, the US administration has been criticised in recent days for approving a potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, which includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAMs] used to turn bombs into precision-guided missiles.
Democrats led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are trying to block the sale by introducing a resolution rejecting the Biden Administration’s support to Israel.
“The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Wednesday.
“We have a responsibility to protect human rights.”
The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.
We have a responsibility to protect human rights. https://t.co/OctBNYFpwp
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2021
Democrats are also demanding that Biden pressures Israel to end its ongoing military offensive.
Gaza offensive enters tenth-night
The military offensive on Gaza has entered its tenth consecutive night with no action taken to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.
At least 228 people have been killed since Israel began its attacks on May 10th, the deadliest since 2014.
Israel has targeted schools, libraries, hospitals, residential and commercial towers that housed media companies including Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.
Occupying Israeli forces have also continued to restrict movement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood amid an ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign to forcibly dispossess Palestinians from their own homes.