Blinken likely to urge Israel to consider alternatives to Rafah ground assault

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to urge Israel to consider alternatives to its planned ground offensive in Rafah when he visits the country on Friday. The US hopes to prevent the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip from worsening.

Blinken is on a tour of the Middle East. He traveled on Thursday to Egypt, which is brokering negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a pause in fighting. He met with Egyptian officials and reportedly discussed the negotiations, which resumed earlier this week in Qatar.

After talks with the Egyptians, Blinken said at a news conference, "The major ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake and something that we can't support." He warned it "would be a humanitarian disaster." He added, "Hamas can be effectively dealt with, without a major ground operation in Rafah."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to go ahead with a ground assault to destroy Hamas. There are currently nearly 1.5 million people in Rafah, including evacuees from other parts of the enclave.

The international community is increasingly concerned that a ground offensive would increase the number of civilian casualties.

The Israeli military has been continuing its operations across the Gaza Strip. It says its troops eliminated more than 140 militants around Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City over four days from Monday.

Hamas says 13 patients were deliberately murdered after the Israeli military blocked the supply of medical and other aid to the hospital. Al-Shifa is the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Health officials in Gaza said on Thursday that 65 people had been confirmed dead over the previous 24 hours, bringing the number of those killed in the enclave since the start of the fighting to 31,988.