U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Jordan’s king and foreign minister on Sunday and visited a World Food Program warehouse in Amman as he pressed ahead with an urgent diplomatic mission to the Middle East to prevent that Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza would spread.
On his fourth visit to the region in three months, Blinken highlighted the need for Israel to adjust its military operations to reduce civilian casualties and significantly increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza, while highlighting the importance of preparing detailed plans. for the post-conflict future. of the territory, which has been decimated by intense Israeli air strikes and ground offensives.
After a day of talks with Turkish and Greek leaders in Istanbul and Crete, Blinken met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Sunday, seeking acceptance of US efforts to quell resurgent fears that the three-month war could engulf the region, increase aid deliveries to Gaza and prepare for the eventual end of hostilities.
Jordan and other Arab states have been highly critical of Israel’s actions and have avoided public support for long-term planning, arguing that the fighting must end before such discussions can begin.
They have been demanding an immediate ceasefire since mid-October when civilian casualties began to skyrocket. Israel has refused, and instead the United States has called for specific temporary humanitarian pauses to allow aid to arrive and people to reach safety.
Blinken also toured the World Food Program Regional Coordination warehouse in the Jordanian capital, where trucks are filled with aid to be delivered to Gaza through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.
The United States has been pressuring Israel for weeks to allow greater quantities of food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Gaza, and the UN Security Council passed a resolution on December 22 calling for an immediate increase. of deliveries.
Three weeks ago, Israel opened Kerem Shalom, adding a second aid entry point to Gaza after Rafah.
Still, the truck entry rate has not increased significantly. This week, an average of about 120 trucks a day entered through Rafah and Kerem Shalom, according to UN figures, well below the 500 trucks of goods that entered daily before the war and well below what aid groups say it is needed.
Almost the entire population of 2.3 million depends on trucks crossing the border for their survival. According to the UN, one in four Palestinians in Gaza die of hunger and the rest face critical levels of hunger.
More than 85 percent of Gaza’s population has been driven from their homes by Israeli bombings and ground offensives. Most live in UN shelters packed beyond capacity, in tent camps that have been erected or on the streets. The few functioning hospitals are overwhelmed with injuries and patients amid disease outbreaks, as sanitation systems have collapsed.
In Greece on Saturday, Blinken said his trip would be dominated by not necessarily easy talks with allies and partners about what they are willing to do to build lasting peace and security.
Blinken’s visit comes as events in Lebanon, northern Israel, the Red Sea and Iraq have put intense strains on what had been a modestly successful U.S. effort to prevent a regional conflagration since Hamas attacked Israel. on October 7, and while international criticism of Israel’s military operation mounts.
From Jordan, Blinken will travel to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday and to Saudi Arabia on Monday. He will then visit Israel and the West Bank on Tuesday and Wednesday before concluding the trip in Egypt.
“These are not necessarily easy conversations,” he said in Greece. There are different perspectives, different needs, different requirements, but it is vital that we undertake this diplomacy now, both for the sake of Gaza and, more broadly, for the sake of the future for Israelis. and Palestinians and for the region as a whole.
He said his priorities are protecting civilians (too many Palestinians have died), getting more humanitarian aid to Gaza, ensuring Hamas cannot attack again, and developing a framework for Palestinian-led governance in the territory and a Palestinian state. with security guarantees for Israel.
Hours before Blinken’s meetings on Saturday, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel and said the bombing was an initial response to the targeted killing, presumably by Israel, of a senior leader of the allied group Hamas in Lebanon’s capital this past week. Israel responded in what became one of the most intense days of cross-border fighting in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, intensified attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have disrupted international trade and led to increased efforts by the United States and its allies to patrol the vital commercial waterway and respond to threats.
The coalition of countries issued what amounted to a final warning to the Houthis on Wednesday to cease their attacks on ships or face possible targeted military action. Since December 19, militants have carried out at least two dozen attacks in response to the war between Israel and Hamas.
(Only the title and image of this report may have been modified by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
First published: January 7, 2024 | 14:46 IS