Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenREUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Wednesday that Israel is taking some “important steps” to better protect civilians during its offensive in southern Gaza.

“I said to them very clearly when I was there just a week ago, we cannot have a repeat of what happened in the north in the south in terms of harm being done to civilians,” Blinken said, suggesting Israeli forces are heeding his call to operate differently in this phase of the war with Hamas.

“What we’re seeing is areas clearly designated by Israel that are safe areas, where there’s not going to be firing or the military. We’ve seen efforts to make sure that people know that they need to move – and not in the entire city, but just discrete neighborhoods. So that’s positive,” Blinken described.

Still, the Secretary of State said more needs to be done, describing the massive civilian death toll in the war-torn Gaza strip as “gut wrenching.”

He called for the establishment of “safe corridors” for civilians to move “from areas that could be in danger to places where they’ll be safe,” and stressed the need for such places to have enough food, water and medicine.

The Biden administration is engaging with the Israeli government “every single day,” Blinken said, adding the administration is working “daily … or sometimes even hourly” to restart negotiations to get the remaining hostages held by Hamas home.

“It’s real for me, it’s real for the president, and we’re on this. Unfortunately, Hamas gets the vote. And Hamas stopped releasing hostages. It reneged on its commitments to Israel, and to everyone else concerned,” said Blinken. “The bottom line is they chose to end this process of releasing hostages. They need to choose to start it again.”

On the recent surge in antisemitism on college campuses, Blinken said it is “deeply, deeply disturbing.”

“That’s something that, you know, is not entirely new, but it’s sort of come out from beneath the rock since October 7,” he told CNN.

“I’m also deeply disturbed about the same kind of hatred and vitriol being directed against Muslim Americans, Arab Americans,” Blinken added. “We see this in all different directions, and we have to get back to a place where people on all of our campuses can feel safe being who they are, what they are, and saying what they believe.”