US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has set to embark on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East, with planned visits to Israel and Jordan. This announcement comes at a critical juncture as tensions continue to escalate in the region due to Israel’s ongoing military operations against Hamas in Gaza.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller confirmed on Wednesday that Secretary Blinken’s trip will commence on Friday, marking his second visit to the region in less than a month. One of the key items on his itinerary is a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During his visit, Secretary Blinken is expected to reaffirm the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense, in accordance with international humanitarian law. Additionally, discussions will center on the imperative need to take all necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties and the ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in the affected areas.
This visit coincides with the US government facilitating the evacuation of its citizens from Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt. While specifics regarding the number of US citizens evacuated were not disclosed, President Joe Biden has pledged to work toward ensuring the safe departure of more US citizens from the region in the coming days.
In response to the escalating conflict, Jordan has recalled its ambassador from Israel and declared that they will not return until Israel suspends its military assault in Gaza.
Israel’s rejection of calls for a ceasefire has generated international concern. Israeli authorities claim that they are fighting to dismantle the Palestinian group Hamas, which was responsible for a deadly attack on southern Israel in early October. However, rights groups, international organizations like the United Nations, and neighboring countries such as Jordan have raised alarms about the dire humanitarian consequences of Israel’s military actions and the harsh siege conditions in Gaza. The Palestinian authorities have reported a significant loss of life, with over 8,796 individuals killed, including a significant number of children.
Recently, an Israeli attack on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza led to extensive destruction and resulted in the loss of numerous lives, according to Palestinian authorities. Health services in Gaza have been severely strained, with limited access to vital resources such as fuel, electricity, and medical supplies due to the Israeli blockade.
While the US has faced criticism from some of its Arab allies for its support of Israel, officials have called for Israel to adhere to international law during its campaign while stopping short of endorsing an immediate end to the hostilities. When asked about Jordan’s decision to recall its diplomat from Israel, the State Department emphasized the shared concerns about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza but underscored the importance of maintaining diplomatic channels.
The situation in the Middle East remains fluid and fraught with challenges, and Secretary Blinken’s visit will play a crucial role in diplomatic efforts to address the ongoing conflict and its humanitarian impact.