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Blinken heads to Israel, Jordan as Gaza war and criticism of it intensifies

US Secretary of State will underscore the Biden administration’s support for Israel but also the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches Palestinians

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on a funding request to support Israel and Ukraine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 31, 2023.KEVIN LAMARQUE (REUTERS)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and Jordan this week as Israel’s war in Gaza and international criticism of it intensify, the State Department said Wednesday.

Blinken will depart Washington on Thursday and will be in Israel and Jordan on Friday and further stops in the Middle East are possible, meaning the trip may follow the frenetic pace of Blinken’s last trip to the region shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel where last-minute schedule changes were frequent. Blinken ended up traveling to Israel three times as well as six Arab nations during that trip.

Blinken will be entering a diplomatic maelstrom that will likely complicate his mission. Jordan announced Wednesday that it had recalled its ambassador to Israel and would not permit Israel’s ambassador to Jordan to return to the country. It said it would not revisit those moves until the Gaza conflict was over.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken would once again underscore the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself but also stress the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

Securing the release of hundred of Israelis and others held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, easing the transit of dual Palestinian nationals and foreigners currently in Gaza into Egypt and preventing a broader regional war from erupting will also be key agenda items, Miller said.

At the same time, Blinken wants to begin a conversation with Israel and with Jordan about an end game for the Gaza conflict once it is over, Miller said. To that end, Blinken will push Israeli officials on reining in violence being committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank and will be re-stating U.S. backing for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, he said.

Blinken speak about “the U.S. commitment to working with partners to set the conditions for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East to include the establishment of a Palestinian state that reflects the aspirations of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” Miller said.

Although there was some progress in securing the evacuation of foreigners, including a small number of Americans, from Gaza into Egypt on Wednesday, thousands more want to leave.

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