US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday landed in Tel Aviv for his third visit since Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7, The Times of Israel reported.
During his visit to Israel, Blinken is due to meet a series of top Israeli officials before heading to Jordan, according to The Times of Israel report. In Israel, Blinken will reiterate US support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism consistent with international humanitarian law and discuss efforts to safeguard US citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, the US Department of State announced in a statement.
Blinken will also work to secure the immediate release of hostages, increase the pace and volume of humanitarian assistance entering Gaza for distribution to Palestinian civilians, and prevent the conflict from spreading, according to the statement.
Prior to departing for his visit to five nations in the Middle East and Asia, Blinken reiterated US’ support for Israel in the ongoing conflict with Hamas. He said that while Israel has the right to defend itself. However, as a democracy, there is the responsibility to protect civilians.
Speaking to reporters, Blinken said, “Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself and to try to make sure what happened never happens again. No country would tolerate the slaughter of their civilians. We stand behind that but as democracies, US, and Israel have responsibilities to protect civilians who are caught in harm’s way”.
Blinken stated that Hamas deliberately uses civilians as human shields and puts weaponry underneath schools and hospitals making the task “incredibly challenging” but one has to rise to that responsibility.
“Hamas cynically, monstrously and deliberately using men, women and children as human shields. Hamas puts their fighters, weapons, and ammunition underneath hospitals, schools and mosques,” Blinken said.
He added, “This makes it incredibly challenging but we have to rise to that responsibility and we will talk about concrete steps that should be taken to minimise harm to men, women and children in Gaza and this is something US is committed to”.
After concluding his visit to Israel, Blinken will head to Jordan. He is also due to visit Japan, South Korea, and India. During his visit to Jordan, the US Secretary of State will underscore the importance of protecting the lives of civilians and their shared commitment to facilitating the increased, sustained delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, the resumption of essential services, and ensuring that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza.
US Department of State in a statement said, “He will also discuss urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric, reduce regional tensions, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to working with partners to set the conditions necessary for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East, to include the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Notably, the US has condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel and affirmed support for Tel Aviv. Earlier in October, US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin travelled to Israel to show support for Tel Aviv amid its counter-offensive against Hamas.