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Top US diplomat acknowledges toll of Mideast crisis on his staff

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acknowledged the emotional toll that the war between Israel and Hamas has taken on US diplomats amid media reports of internal dissent over Washington’s handling of the conflict.

Blinken sent a letter to all State Department employees Thursday night noting the “challenging” circumstances affecting the US diplomatic corps, some of whom feel the “ripples of fear and bigotry” the conflict has generated.

US leaders including President Joe Biden and Blinken have pledged unwavering support for Israel, publicly blessing the country’s reprisals for Hamas’ shock raid from the Gaza Strip on October 7, which have included a relentless bombing campaign of the crowded enclave.

At least one State Department official has quit over the Biden administration’s approach to the conflict. The official, Josh Paul, said on LinkedIn he left over “policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.”

Blinken’s letter was not a response to the reports of frustrations within the department, a source familiar with the matter said.

In his letter, Blinken described his recent trip to the Middle East, which saw him bounce between Israel and several Arab countries, visiting some several times.

“I know that, for many of you, this time has not only been challenging professionally, but personally,” he wrote in the letter, which AFP obtained.

The United States, he said, mourns the loss of “every innocent life in this conflict.”

“That is why President Biden has made clear … that while we fully support Israel’s right to defend itself, how it does so matters,” he added, referring to the need to respect “the rule of law and international humanitarian standards.”

“Let us also be sure to sustain and expand the space for debate and dissent that makes our policies and our institution better,” Blinken wrote.

“We have a difficult stretch ahead. The risk of greater turmoil and strife is real.”

This week, the Huffington Post claimed that State Department employees were unhappy with US policy towards the conflict, with one telling the publication that there was “a mutiny” in the works.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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