Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly took shelter in a bunker as sirens warned of a rocket attack in Tel Aviv, highlighting the dangers faced by the top US diplomat as he shuttles through the region in a bid to avert a wider Middle East conflict.
(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly took shelter in a bunker as sirens warned of a rocket attack in Tel Aviv, highlighting the dangers faced by the top US diplomat as he shuttles through the region in a bid to avert a wider Middle East conflict.
Blinken and Netanyahu were meeting along with senior Israeli officials when sirens went off near the prime minister’s office to warn of a rocket attack. State Department staff and reporters with the delegation were also ushered down a deep stairwell until the sirens stopped and the shelter order was lifted.
“During the secretary’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the war cabinet, the air raid sirens went off and they sheltered in a bunker for five minutes,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
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The episode came as Blinken made his second trip to Israel after a spate of shuttle diplomacy through the region both to show support for Israel and seek to keep the war between Israel and Hamas from pulling in Iran and other actors. In the past four days, Blinken also touched down in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
President Joe Biden is weighing visiting Israel himself and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to arrive Tuesday, according to person familiar with the plan. Scholz will then travel on to Egypt, where he will meet President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday, said the person.
Israel has said it’s preparing for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to “wipe out” Hamas after the Iran-backed militant group launched an unprecedented Oct. 7 attack, killing 1,300 people and kidnapping around 200.
Israel has since imposed a near-total siege on the Hamas-ruled enclave and launched thousands of air strikes. Palestinian health officials say more than 2,650 people in Gaza have been killed and UN officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis.
In an earlier meeting with Blinken, Israeli Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant warned that Israeli forces were preparing for a long and costly war but that Israel would win.
“Let me tell you, Mr. Secretary, this will be a long war, the price will be high,” Gallant told Blinken. “But we are going to win for Israel and the Jewish people, and for the values that both countries believe in.”
Repeated rocket attacks by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, another Iran-sponsored group, over the past week have raised the prospect that the war will spread to Israel’s northern border.
Blinken said he was returning to Israel to share the conversations he’d had with Arab leaders.
“I want an opportunity to share everything that I’ve heard, that I’ve learned over the last few days visiting with our other partners and to talk about the way forward with our Israeli allies and friends,” Blinken told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.
“What I’ve heard from virtually every partner was a determination,” he said. “A shared view that we have to do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t spread to other places, a shared view to safeguard innocent lives, a shared view to get assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who need it, and we’re working very much on that.”
Blinken has engaged with Israeli officials on the assistance they need for the war and on efforts to free American hostages taken by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.
He’s also lobbying Arab states to use their influence to secure the release of hostages and discourage Hezbollah from opening up a second front in Israel’s north. Hezbollah has said it is prepared to act “when the time comes.”
Iran reiterated its warning that a ground attack on Gaza will lead to the war spreading.
“The possible expansion of the war on other fronts is approaching the inevitable stage,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Monday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The time for political solutions is running out.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is also getting involved. He will discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict with Netanyahu on Monday, according to Russian media.
Putin has already spoken to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and plans to talk with Egypt’s El-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who’s organization rules the West Bank.
–With assistance from John Follain, Angela Cullen and Michael Nienaber.
(Updates with Blinken and Netanyahu taking shelter.)
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