US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel Friday, an AFP correspondent travelling with him said, in a trip focused on measures to minimise harm to civilians in the war in Gaza.
Prior to his departure, Blinken said he would seek “concrete steps” from Israel to ensure that harm to Palestinian civilians is reduced, as US President Joe Biden also called for humanitarian pauses in the conflict.
This is Blinken’s second trip to the Middle East since fighting erupted on October 7 after Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a massive attack on southern Israel that left 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
In retaliatory Israeli strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, more than 9,000 people have died including more than 3,700 children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
“We will be talking about concrete steps that can and should be taken to minimise harm to men, women and children in Gaza,” Blinken told reporters before departing for Israel.
“This is something that the United States is committed to.”
“When I see a Palestinian child — a boy, a girl — pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building, that hits me in the gut as much as seeing a child in Israel or anywhere else,” Blinken said.
“So this is something that we have an obligation to respond to, and we will.”
Biden has promised full support and ramped-up military aid to Israel for its campaign in Gaza, but in a visible shift of tone has also voiced empathy for Palestinian suffering which has stoked anger in parts of the world.
“I think we need a pause,” Biden said on Thursday at a campaign event.
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US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later clarified what such a pause would entail.
“A humanitarian pause… is temporary, localised and focused, focused on a particular objective or objectives, humanitarian aid in, people out,” Kirby told reporters.