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Blinken Visiting UAE, Saudi Arabia Amid Push to Curb Spread of Israeli-Hamas War


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he arrives in Abu Dhabi, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, in United Arab Emirates, Jan. 7, 2024.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he arrives in Abu Dhabi, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, in United Arab Emirates, Jan. 7, 2024.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia Monday, then heads to Israel, as he pushes for more humanitarian aid to Gaza, the protection of civilians and to ensure the conflict does not spread to other parts of the region.

In talks with UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the State Department said Blinken “emphasized the importance of preventing further spread of the conflict and stressed continued U.S. commitment to securing lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

In Saudi Arabia, Blinken has talks scheduled with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In meetings Sunday with Jordan King Abdullah II and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the top U.S. diplomat spoke of the need for Israel to curb civilian casualties during the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza and significantly increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching famished Palestinians in Gaza.

But the U.S. has continued to support Israel in refusing Arab demands for a cease-fire to halt the fighting in the three-month war.

Israel has vowed to continue the war until it believes the threat of future Hamas attacks has been eradicated and the militant group no longer controls Gaza, the narrow territory along the Mediterranean Sea.

Jordan’s royal court said King Abdullah "warned of the catastrophic repercussions" of Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas while calling on the U.S. to press for an immediate cease-fire.

Israeli and U.S. officials have said they believe that a cease-fire would only allow Hamas to be able to regroup in its fight against Israeli forces.

While in Amman, Blinken also visited a World Food Program warehouse where trucks are loaded with aid for famished Palestinians in Gaza.

"The efforts right here to collect and distribute food to people in need are absolutely essential," Blinken said. "The United States has worked from day one to open access routes into Gaza."

"We continue to work on that every single day, not only to open them but to multiply them, to maximize them and to try to get more assistance, more effectively," he said. "We're determined to do everything we possibly can to ameliorate the situation for the men, women and children in Gaza."

The United States has urged a lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. This involves achieving Palestinian political rights — notably the establishment of a Palestinian state with security assurances for Israel.

Blinken’s trip comes at a time when the risk of a broader regional conflict is surging, despite collective efforts of Western and regional powers to confine the Israel-Hamas war to the Gaza Strip.

Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7. Israel said about 1,200 people were killed and about 240 captives taken in the terror attack.

Gaza health officials say more than 22,000 Palestinians, a large percentage of them women and children, have been killed in Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The United States has stated its opposition to forcibly removing Palestinians from Gaza. The U.S. is also working on a postwar road map for the Palestinian territories.

"Gaza cannot, once again, serve as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israel,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told VOA last week.

"What we ultimately want to see is Gaza and the West Bank reunited under Palestinian leadership," and "certainly there's no role for Hamas in that."

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant outlined the country's plans for the next stage of its operations in Gaza. The new approach involves a more targeted strategy in northern Gaza and a continued pursuit of Hamas leaders in the south.

Gallant said in a statement that after the war, Gaza would no longer be under Hamas control. While Israel would retain operational freedom, there would not be any Israeli civilians present in the Gaza Strip.

Some material for this report was provided by Reuters and The Associated Press.