TEL AVIV, Oct 12 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Benjamin Netanyahu that he personally understands the “painful echoes of the massacre by Hamas for Israeli Jews” as he begins the Middle East During the war, Washington sided with Israel and the purpose of this trip was also to curb the conflict.
Speaking from a podium next to Israel’s prime minister at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Blinken urged Israel to refrain from retaliation, his most direct plea yet for Israel to take all possible precautions to protect civilian lives.
Washington’s top diplomat began a multi-country tour of the Middle East as Israel launched its most powerful bombing campaign in the 75-year conflict with the Palestinians and vowed to eliminate Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the militants’ actions. Weekend attack.
Blinken will also work to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, some of whom are believed to be Americans, and engage with Israelis and Egyptians on providing Gaza civilians with safe passage out of the enclave ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion Negotiate.
He said at least 25 Americans had been killed in Hamas attacks.
“You may have enough power to defend yourself. But as long as the United States exists, you will never have to do that. We will always be there for you,” Blinken told Netanyahu.
He also recounts the emotional and personal story of how his grandfather escaped the Holocaust in Russia and how his stepfather survived a Nazi concentration camp.
“Personally, I understand the painful echoes that Hamas’ massacres have for Jews in Israel and, indeed, for Jews around the world,” he said.
Blinken told a subsequent news conference that Israeli officials had shared videos and images of the aftermath of Hamas attacks that he said showed a baby “riddled with bullet holes,” beheaded soldiers and young people in cars Internally burned.
“This is simply the worst depravity,” Blinken said. “It’s really beyond what we can comprehend and digest.”
After Israel, Blinken said he would travel to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before continuing with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar. People meet.
Blinken’s trip is also intended to send a deterrent message to Iran, which supports Hamas, asking it not to get involved in the conflict.
Hundreds of Hamas gunmen breached the separation fence and rampaged through Israeli towns on Saturday, as Israel vowed to retaliate for the worst attack on Jewish civilians in its history.
The escalation is the most severe in the region in years.
Blinken said Israel has an obligation to defend itself and ensure cross-border attacks never happen again, and he discussed with Netanyahu how they would do that.
“We, as democracies, differentiate ourselves from terrorists by striving to pursue different standards, even when it is difficult,” he said. “That is why it is so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”
Blinken also said that as Israel’s defense needs evolve, Washington will work with Congress to ensure those needs are met.
Israel says it will not lift its siege of Gaza for humanitarian purposes until all hostages are freed.
A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington was pushing hard to advance talks on providing safe passage for civilians, including some 500 to 600 Palestinian Americans living in Gaza.
Containing the conflict is a priority for Washington, and Blinken has been talking to regional allies who have spoken to Iran and Iran-backed groups, asking them to advise Tehran not to get involved.
“We very much want to show … that we are committed to involving other parties in this conflict,” the official said.
Additional reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jonathan Otis
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Humela Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington, DC. She covers the U.S. State Department and regularly travels with the U.S. Secretary of State. During her 20 years at Reuters, she worked in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, reporting on everything from the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war to multiple Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. In 2017, she was awarded the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship Program at Columbia University School of Journalism. She holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in European Studies.