By Nike Ching
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to the Middle East this week as Israel intensifies its retaliatory assault on Hamas targets in Gaza.
“Secretary Blinken will travel to Israel and Jordan on Friday, the secretary will meet with Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu and other leaders of the Israeli government to receive an update on their military objectives,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller announced during Wednesday’s briefing.
Blinken will discuss with the Israelis the need to take every precaution to minimize civilian casualties, Miller said.
In Jordan, the State Department said the secretary of state will underscore the shared commitment between the U.S. and Jordan to facilitating the increased, sustained delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.
They also will work for the resumption of essential services and seek to ensure that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza, Miller said.
Jordan recalls ambassador from Israel
Earlier on Wednesday, Jordan announced the recall of its ambassador from Israel to protest Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, citing the loss of innocent lives and the resulting humanitarian crisis. Jordan said its ambassador will return to Tel Aviv only if Israel ceases its military actions in the Gaza Strip.
Similarly, Israel’s ambassador in Jordan, who departed two weeks ago amid protests, would be permitted to return only under the same conditions, according to Jordan’s foreign ministry.
From Jordan, Blinken will travel to Ankara for meetings on Sunday, according to VOA’s Turkish service, citing diplomatic sources. However, Miller refused to confirm that the secretary will go to Turkey.
G7 foreign ministers will meet in Tokyo from November 7 to 8, but the State Department declined to announce Blinken’s travel plans after the Middle East.
This is Blinken’s second trip to the Middle East since the deadly Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. The United States has been providing support for Israel’s war against Hamas militants and facilitating humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has said that Israel’s airstrikes have killed more than 8,500 people, sparking outrage in the region and around the world.
The U.S. has called on Israel to respect international humanitarian law while defending its citizens and combating Hamas attacks.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog discussed the continuing efforts to bring home the hostages taken by Hamas and the urgent need to increase “the pace and volume of humanitarian assistance” that is entering Gaza for distribution to Palestinian civilians.
Blinken has told U.S. senators that the Palestinian Authority should regain control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that has ruled the territory since 2007.
“At some point, what would make the most sense would be for an effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza,” said Blinken as he testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday.
U.S. supports two-state solution
U.S. officials maintain that while Washington supports Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, the U.S. also supports a two-state solution as the ultimate resolution of issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Violence also has escalated in the West Bank in recent weeks. Since October 7, Israeli forces and Jewish settlers have killed 123 Palestinians, according to UNRWA as of 6 p.m. local time Tuesday. Many of the deceased were members of armed groups, but nearly 30% of the victims were children, according to the United Nations.
The United States said it has expressed its concerns to the government of Israel about settler violence in the West Bank.
“We find it incredibly destabilizing; we find it counterproductive to Israel’s long-term security” and “extremely harmful” to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, said State Department spokesperson Miller on Wednesday.
“It’s unacceptable. It needs to stop,” he said. “Those responsible for it need to be held accountable.”