Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to board a military aircraft prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., May 16, 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to board a military aircraft prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., May 16, 2021.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks Sunday with key counterparts influential in the Middle East as the United States seeks to de-escalate deadly clashes between Israel and the Palestinians.

Blinken, who was en route Sunday to Denmark at the start of a week of diplomacy focused on the Arctic, spoke by phone to officials in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France.

After Iran, Qatar is seen as having the greatest influence on the Hamas militant group.

"The secretary reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children," State Department spokesman Ned Price said. 

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Each of Blinken's calls sounded those themes, according to the State Department readouts.

The calls followed the deadliest day yet in the nearly weeklong flareup, as Israeli strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and as the U.N. Security Council held a virtual meeting amid global alarm over the conflict.

Blinken's calls also came a day after President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to express his "grave concern" over the deteriorating situation and urge both sides to show restraint.

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Gatherings took place in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan

A total of 42 Palestinians, including at least eight children and two doctors, were killed Sunday in Israeli bombardments in Gaza, a poor enclave of 2 million people under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years, according to the local health ministry.

This is the heaviest daily death toll since the violence began: in total, since May 10, 197 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 injured.

On the Israeli side, 10 people were killed including a child, and 282 injured in attacks by Palestinian groups from Gaza, including Hamas.

These have fired more than 3,100 rockets at Israel since the start of hostilities, the highest rate of projectiles ever fired on Israeli soil, the IDF said Sunday, stressing that much of it had been intercepted by its military. anti-missile system.

"The intensity of this conflict is something we have never seen before, with relentless air raids on densely populated Gaza, and rockets hitting major cities in Israel," said Robert Mardini, director general of the Red Cross.