Saturday, December 9, 2023

US State Secy Antony Blinken to visit Israel on Friday

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Amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel on Friday, The Times of Israel reported citing an Israeli official.
On October 16, Antony Blinken arrived in Israel, the second time within a few days, to pledge support for the country as it continued its counter-offensive against Hamas.

Blinken who was in Israel on October 12 returned to the country after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

During his visit to Israel on October 12, Blinken held a nearly eight-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, kicking off a regional tour that included stops in five other countries, The Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday (local time) said that he thinks Israel is “certainly” making an effort to minimize humanitarian casualties in Gaza.

While addressing a press briefing on Monday (local time), he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken about the efforts that they are making to try to avoid civilian casualties. He noted that there have been civilian casualties amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and added that the Israel Defence Force’s goal is to go after Hamas terrorists and not after civilians.

Asked whether US President Joe Biden feels that Israel abides by the rule of war, Kirby said, “Without getting into, reacting to events on the ground in real-time, which we are just not going to do, this is a conversation we consistently have had with our Israeli counterparts. As you rightly know, that was part of the discussion yesterday with the prime minister, and you heard the prime minister today speaking in Tel Aviv about the efforts that they’re undertaking to try to avoid civilian casualties, and I think that they certainly are making that effort.”

“It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been civilian casualties tragically, there have been many, thousands of them, but unlike Putin in Ukraine, and unlike what Hamas did on October 7, killing civilians is not a war aim of the Israeli Defence Forces. Their war aim is to go after Hamas terrorists, terrorists I might add, that are using innocent Palestinians as human shields,” he added.

John Kirby that Netanyahu brings up the issue of civilian casualties in Gaza in conversations with US President Joe Biden and that both leaders “recognize that as democracies, it’s important to abide by the law of war, to protect innocent life and to and to try to minimize civilian casualties.”

In response to a question on why Biden is repeatedly calling for fighting the war in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law, he said, “Because it is something that even the Prime Minister brings up in the conversation. They both recognize that as democracies, it’s important to abide by the law of war, to protect innocent life and to try to minimize civilian casualties. It’s not a lecturing, it’s a reminder from two leaders of two vibrant democracies, that this is what separates us from folks like Hamas.”

He noted that there is not a single conversation that the US has not had with Israeli counterparts to better understand what efforts they are making to minimize civilian casualties. He said that the US is leading the effort to try to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

“There’s not a single conversation we haven’t had with our Israeli counterparts to better understand what they’re doing to try to minimize civilian casualties and again, as friends can and friends should do with one another, to make sure that we’re on the same page about that,” he said.

“And the United States is literally leading the effort to try to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza and if it wasn’t, quite frankly, for American leadership, I don’t think you’d see in fact, I know you wouldn’t see the increase of the aid getting in. Again, we know that there’s a lot that needs to be done. But, it’s because of the American leadership on the ground and American convening power that we are able to get that aid in and …We are really working very hard at this. Every single innocent life lost is a tragedy. Everyone whether it is a Palestinian life lost or an Israeli life lost, everyone should be prevented. There is no reason for these families to keep grieving and we are going to keep doing everything we can to work with Israeli counterparts on the minimisation of civilian casualties,” he added.

The conflict in Gaza escalated after the October 7 attack by Hamas. Israel has vowed to destroy the military capabilities of Hamas while making efforts to minimise civilian casualties. The US has condemned Hamas’s action and backed Israel’s right to defend itself. Earlier in October, US President Joe Biden also visited Israel to show support for Israel. 

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