Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenREUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday criticized Israel's conduct in its operation in southern Gaza, claiming there was a "gap" between its intent to protect civilians and what has been happening on the ground, Reuters reported.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Blinken laid out concrete steps to ensure civilians are out of harm's way and the areas they go to are supplied with food, medicine and water.

"As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south ... it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection. And there does remain a gap between, exactly what I said when I was there, the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we're seeing on the ground," Blinken said.

On top of having safe areas, Blinken said, it would be important to have communications in place so that people know where they can go and when, and that the periods that they can move from one place to the other are clear.

Making sure that the pauses apply to not one neighborhood but to a broader area so people have the confidence to know they can move out of harm's way was also important, Blinken added, urging that those areas be fully stocked with food, medicine and water.

Ensuring that those areas are clearly out of the conflict zone and no military means are used there was also key, Blinken said.

"So this is something that we're talking about with the Israelis on a regular basis, including, as recently as today and including in the president's conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today," the Secretary of State said.

On Wednesday, in an interview with CNN, Blinken said that Israel is taking some “important steps” to better protect civilians during its offensive in southern Gaza.

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

Meanwhile on Thursday, a senior US official said that, at the request of the US, Israel has agreed to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza.

The crossing would be open for only the screening and inspection of the humanitarian aid being delivered into Gaza via the Rafah crossing, on its border with Egypt.

Following pressure by the US, the Political-Security Cabinet on Wednesday evening approved an increase in the supply of fuel entering the Gaza Strip.

Most of the ministers supported the decision. Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir objected and voted against.

Israel to this point had allowed about 60,000 liters of fuel to enter Gaza every day for humanitarian needs. The US administration demanded that a daily amount three times higher, 180 thousand liters, be permitted to enter the Strip.