The Latest | Blinken meets Israeli leaders as Russia, China veto a UN cease-fire resolution


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv on Friday on the final stop in his sixth urgent trip to the region since the start of the war.

Blinken said he would share alternatives to Israel’s planned ground assault into the southern Gaza town of Rafah during talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his War Cabinet.

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution sponsored by the United States that called for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

So little food has been allowed into Gaza that up to 60% of children under 5 are now malnourished, compared with fewer than 1% before the war began, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The Health Ministry in Gaza raised the territory’s death toll Thursday to nearly 32,000 Palestinians. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people in the surprise Oct. 7 attack out of Gaza that triggered the war, and abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 people hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.


Russia and China veto US resolution calling for immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

— Blinken says an Israeli assault on Gaza’s Rafah would be a mistake, and isn’t needed to defeat Hamas.

— Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold in the Gaza Strip, and it’s determined to launch an offensive.

— U.S. House speaker says he plans to invite Netanyahu to address the Congress.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at

Here’s the latest:


UNITED NATIONS— Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution calling for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favor, three against and one abstention.

Before the vote, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate cease-fire, but he questioned the language in the resolution and accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of “misleading the international community” for “politicized” reasons.


BRUSSELS — After five months of fighting in Gaza and tens of thousands of casualties, the 27 European Union countries have overcome their differences and agreed to call for a cease-fire.

In a statement overnight, EU leaders called “for an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the EU position is largely in line with that of the United States. It comes as the United Nations Security Council prepares to vote later Friday on a U.S.-sponsored resolution declaring “the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war.

EU countries have long been divided over their support for Israel and the Palestinians, and the U.N. vote will be a fresh public test of their unity. In December, two EU members voted against calling for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” while four countries abstained.


TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what were expected expected to be fractious talks over the war in Gaza as public differences over the conflict have intensified.

It’s the final stop in Blinken’s sixth urgent diplomatic mission to the Middle East, and he started the brief six-hour visit Friday with a one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu followed by a larger gathering with Israel’s war Cabinet aimed at convincing them not to proceed with plans for a large-scale military offensive in the southern city of Rafah that many fear could make an already disastrous humanitarian crisis in Gaza even worse.

“A major military operation in Rafah would be a mistake, something we don’t support,” Blinken said Thursday in Cairo, where he met with top diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. “And, it’s also not necessary to deal with Hamas, which is necessary.”

Instead, Blinken will present Netanyahu with alternatives for dealing with Hamas in Rafah in discussions that will continue next week when Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and a separate delegation of senior Israeli officials visit Washington. Netanyahu agreed to send the delegation in a Monday phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden — their first conversation in a month amid the widening divisions.

Blinken’s brief visit to Israel, which was announced only Wednesday and was not part of his original Mideast itinerary, comes as top intelligence officials from the U.S., Israel, Egypt and Qatar were to meet in Doha to hammer out details of a proposed cease-fire-for-hostages deal. Qatar, and to a lesser extent Egypt, are the main interlocutors with Hamas, which has thus far rebuffed offers the negotiations have produced.


The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a United States-sponsored resolution declaring that “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza is “imperative” to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was optimistic that the new, tougher draft resolution would be approved Friday by the 15-member council.

The draft being put to a vote “determines” — which is a council order — “the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire,” with no direct link to the release of hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which was in the previous draft. But it would unequivocally support diplomatic efforts “to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages,” and emphasizes “the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to civilians in the entire Gaza Strip.”

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said Moscow will not be satisfied “with anything that doesn’t call for an immediate cease-fire,” saying it’s what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pressing for and what “everybody” wants. He questioned the wording of the draft, asking, “What’s an imperative? I have an imperative to give you $100, but … it’s only an imperative, not $100.”

The Security Council has already adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none calling for a cease-fire.

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