Blinken arrives in Israel for talks

Blinken arrives in Israel for talks

Shafaq News / Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel Friday to press the Israeli government on its ongoing offensive in Gaza amid growing international condemnation and a steadily mounting civilian death toll.

The top US diplomat, who traveled twice to Israel last month in the wake of the deadly Hamas attack, will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials as the US government continues to attempt balancing support for Israel’s defense with an increasingly public call for them to protect civilians.

Blinken touched down in Tel Aviv on Friday morning, accompanied by newly confirmed US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew.

In remarks to the press before departing Washington, DC, Thursday, Blinken said he planned to talk to the Israeli government about “the ongoing campaign against the Hamas terrorist organization” and “steps that need to be taken to protect civilians.”

He also intends to discuss, as he did in past trips, the hostages being held by Hamas and the prevention of a wider regional conflict.

Blinken declined to go into detail about the “concrete steps” to better protect civilians, nor would he provide a direct answer when asked whether Israel has shown restraint in its offensive so far. Instead, he said that this was “a crossfire of Hamas’ making,” condemning the terrorist group for “cynically and monstrously” using civilians as human shields and embedding its fighters within civilian infrastructure.

“When I see a Palestinian child, a boy or girl, pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building – that hits me in the gut as much as seeing a child in Israel or anywhere else,” Blinken said. “This is something that we have an obligation to respond to, and we will.”

Privately, officials across the US government have warned their Israeli counterparts about the impact of such images – and the importance of allowing humanitarian aid in – on their ability to pursue their strategic aims as international condemnation grows wider and louder.

“We are constantly saying you’re not going to have the time and the space to do what you want to do if these images just keep coming out day after day of the death and destruction that’s happening inside of Gaza,” a source familiar said, alluding to the US experience with Mosul, Aleppo and Fallujah. “It’s a message that is repeated at all levels all day, every day.”

Arab partners in particular have voiced immense criticism of Israel’s campaign in Gaza and Jordan and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors.

The continued flow of that humanitarian aid and ongoing departure of civilians will be another key focus of his conversations in Israel, Blinken said Thursday.

Civilians, including American citizens, were able to leave Gaza via the Rafah Gate to Egypt starting on Wednesday, and officials said departures were expected to continue over the coming days.

Still, it was a painstaking, weeks-long process to get to that point, one that required significant high-level US pressure on the parties involved.


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