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Blinken seeks to contain war between Israel and Hamas; meets Middle East leaders in Jordan

Amman — Arab leaders denounce deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians in the Israel-Hamas war pushed for an immediate ceasefire even as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in meetings in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday that such a move would be counterproductive and could encourage more violence from the part of the militant group.

After an afternoon of discussions with Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Qatari and Emirati diplomats as well as a senior Palestinian official, Blinken stood side by side on a row of podiums with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts to discuss this which he said was their shared desire to protect. civilians in Gaza and improve aid flows to the besieged territory.

The dissonance in the messages was evident. Still, the joint news conference between Arab world ministers and the top diplomat of Israel’s closest ally and the numerous photo ops contrast with Blinken’s stay in Tel Aviv on Friday, when Blinken met alone with reporters after closed-door talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) shakes hands with Qatar Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani during a day of meetings, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Amman, the Jordanian capital, on November 4. , 2023.


Blinken began his trip on Friday with a stopover in Israel. This is his third trip to Israel since the outbreak of war following the bloody Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7. caused hundreds of deaths. He reiterated U.S. support for Israel, saying the country has the right to defend itself. But he said a “humanitarian break” was necessary to increase the delivery of aid to Palestinian civilians amid growing concern over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

On Saturday evening, as he left a mass service at St. Edmond’s Roman Catholic Church in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, President Biden responded “yes” and gave a thumbs up when a reporter asked him if he There had been progress in achieving a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in Gaza.

Arab ministers on Saturday repeatedly called for an immediate end to the fighting and condemned Israel’s war tactics.

“We cannot accept the justification considered to be the right to self-defense and collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza, said Egyptian Sameh Choukry. “This can’t be self-defense at all.”

Blinken steadfastly maintained the U.S. position that a ceasefire would harm Israel’s right and obligation to defend its citizens following Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel. He said the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense remains unwavering.

“We now believe that a ceasefire would just leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what they did,” Blinken said.

He said the United States supported “humanitarian pauses” in Israeli operations to allow for improved aid flows – a call Netanyahu pointedly rejected the day before – and an increase in the transit of foreign nationals out of Gaza to Egypt. Blinken’s colleagues in Jordan and Egypt said it did not go far enough.

In another direct contrast, Arab officials said it was far too early to discuss one of Blinken’s main agenda items, the future of Gaza after the war. Ending the killings and restoring stable humanitarian aid are immediate steps and must be taken first, they said.

“What happens next? How can we even imagine what will happen next?” said Ayman al-Safadi from Jordan. “We don’t have all the variables to start thinking about it.” He added: “We need to clarify our priorities.”

Blinken’s first meeting in Jordan took place with Acting Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, whose economically and politically ravaged country is home to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed force hostile to Israel. The United States is very concerned that Hezbollah, which has increased its rocket attacks and cross-border attacks against northern Israel, will play a more active role in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken then met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, whose country has become Hamas’s most influential interlocutor. Qatar played a key role in negotiating the limited release of hostages held by Hamas and in persuading Hamas to allow foreign citizens to leave Gaza and enter Egypt.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi November 4, 2023 in Amman, Jordan.

Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

In Amman, Blinken will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose country recalled its ambassador to Israel and told the Israeli envoy not to return to Jordan until the Gaza crisis is over. On Sunday, Blinken will travel to Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyep Erdogan and other senior officials on Monday, the State Department said. Turkey followed Jordan’s example on Saturday and announced that it had recalled its ambassador to Israel.

Fighting intensifies in Gaza City

The family home of Ismaïl Haniyeh, Hamas leader in exile, in the Shati refugee camp on the northern edge of Gaza City, was hit by an airstrike on Saturday morning, according to the Hamas press office in Gaza. There were no immediate details on damage or casualties and no immediate comment was made.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, told The Associated Press that the house was used by Haniyeh’s two sons.

The house is located in a narrow alley in the refugee camp, which over the generations has become a crowded area of ​​Gaza City. Haniyeh, a former collaborator of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004, has been in exile since 2019.

Gaza war intensifies as Israeli troops surround Gaza City


Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remain in the city and in northern Gaza.

Israel says Hamas has a vast military infrastructure in the city, including a network of underground tunnels, bunkers and command centers. It says its strikes target Hamas and that the militants endanger civilians by operating among them.

The town is now surrounded by Israeli forces, who have urged civilians to head south to avoid being caught in the fighting.

Despite these warnings, Israel has continued its strikes in the south, saying it targets Hamas members, but the bombs also kill entire families.

Raed Mattar, who was sheltering in a school in the southern town of Khan Younis after fleeing the north at the start of the war, said on Saturday he regularly heard explosions, apparently caused by airstrikes.

“People never sleep,” he said. “The sound of explosions never stops.”

A photo taken from the southern Israeli border town of Sderot shows smoke rising above buildings in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli military operation on November 4, 2023, as fighting continue between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants.

YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

“Gaza, a problem largely attributable to Israel”

About 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70% of the population, have fled their homes, according to the UN. The Israeli military said ground forces were also now operating in the south, with an armored corps and engineers working to clear traps from buildings.

Elsewhere, skirmishes along Israel’s northern border continued Saturday morning as the Israeli military said it struck militant cells in Lebanon attempting to fire on Israel, as well as a Hezbollah observation post .

Throughout the war, Israel and Hamas ally Hezbollah exchanged fire almost daily along the Lebanese border, raising fears of a new front opening there.

In addition to distributing aid, allowing foreigners and releasing hostages, Blinken seeks to get Jordan and other Arab states to think about the future of Gaza if and when Israel succeeds in wrest control from Hamas.

Arab leaders have so far resisted U.S. suggestions that they would play a greater role in the crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian toll of Israeli military operations but believing that Gaza was a problem largely of Israel’s own making.

Huge plumes of smoke rise on the horizon above the town of Khan Yunis, seen from the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 4, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.

SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

More … than 9,200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so farincluding more than 3,600 Palestinian children, said the Gaza Ministry of Health, without providing a breakdown between civilians and combatants.

More than 1,400 people died on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the first Hamas attack. Militant rocket fire from Gaza into Israel persists, disrupting the lives of millions and forcing an estimated 250,000 people to evacuate. Most rockets are intercepted.

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground operation began.

The overall toll is likely to rise significantly as the assault on densely built-up Gaza continues.

More than 386 dual-national and injured Palestinians left Gaza for Egypt on Friday, according to Wael Abou Omar, Hamas spokesman for the Rafah border crossing. This brings the total number of people out since Wednesday to 1,115.

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