Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he’s bringing a message that “the United States has Israel’s back” as he departed for Tel Aviv Wednesday after the assault by Hamas that has sparked a new war in the Middle East.
(Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he’s bringing a message that “the United States has Israel’s back” as he departed for Tel Aviv Wednesday after the assault by Hamas that has sparked a new war in the Middle East.
The top US diplomat is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials on Thursday. Israel is attacking Gaza from the air and may be preparing for a ground invasion after the attack by Hamas, the militant group that killed at least 1,200 Israelis. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.
From Israel, Blinken is scheduled to visit Jordan. From there, he’ll travel to other countries in the region, a senior State Department official said late Wednesday night, without naming them. The official added that the US effort to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would continue.
Asked before his departure about the prospect of an Israeli invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza, Blinken said he wouldn’t get into specifics of what Israel may do.
He added that his purpose was to ensure the country had the weapons and munitions needed to retaliate and defend itself as the conflict unfolds, as well as to deter more attacks. He also wants to send a message to militant groups and countries in the region not to take advantage of Israel at this moment.
“What separates Israel, the United States and other democracies when it comes to incredibly difficult situations like this is our respect for international law,” he said. “We do everything we can to make sure that in these situations we avoid civilian casualties.”
“That is in direct contrast with Hamas, which uses people as human shields,” Blinken said.
He has been calling counterparts in the region in an effort to persuade those with influence over Hamas to pressure the group to release scores of hostages, including Americans, while also pressing for restraint by the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.
For more on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.
Blinken’s visit will follow that of UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who arrived in Israel on Wednesday to show his country’s “unwavering solidarity,” the Foreign Office said.
The Hamas attacks that began on Saturday included thousands of rockets fired into Israeli neighborhoods and at least 1,500 Hamas militants storming across the border and killing and abducting civilians and soldiers. The attacks claimed the lives of at least 22 American citizens, and 17 more remain unaccounted for, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday.
(Updates with new destinations, in second paragraph.)
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