United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday with Israeli officials the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and urged the Israeli side to protect civilians in Gaza.
Blinken’s visit marks his fourth trip to Israel since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October last year. The international community is increasingly concerned about Israeli attacks in Gaza, as the death toll in the Palestinian enclave has surpassed 23,000 and approximately 2 million people were displaced amid a severe humanitarian crisis. In his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken stressed “the importance of avoiding further civilian harm and protecting civilian infrastructure in Gaza,” according to a statement released by his office. He also reaffirmed his country’s support for Israel’s right to prevent the attacks of October 7 from being repeated. Blinken and Netanyahu discussed “ongoing efforts” to release all remaining hostages and the U.S. demand for increasing “the level of humanitarian assistance reaching civilians in Gaza,” the office said. “The Secretary reiterated the need to ensure lasting, sustainable peace for Israel and the region, including by the realization of a Palestinian state,” the statement read.
The Israel war cabinet declined Blinken’s request to permit civilians to return to their homes in the northern Gaza Strip, saying it would allow it only after Hamas had released all of the hostages. However, the war cabinet approved Blinken’s request to allow a United Nations delegation to visit the northern Gaza Strip. Blinken also met Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the Israeli war cabinet in Tel Aviv. Gallant told Blinken that operations in the area of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip are expected to “intensify and continue until Hamas leadership is detected, and Israeli hostages return home safely.” Blinken arrived in Israel on Tuesday after visiting Türkiye, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, he will travel to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before he departs for Cairo.