Amman (AFP) – US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken continues his extensive tour of the Middle East in Jordan on Sunday, calling for an escalation of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
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Blinken arrived in Amman on Saturday night after two stops in Turkey and Greece. On Sunday, he is due to hold talks with Jordanian representative Ayman Safadi and King Abdullah II and visit the World Food Program center in the capital, an official in the accompanying delegation confirmed.
“We have to make sure the conflict doesn't escalate,” Blinken said at Sania airport on the Greek island of Crete on Saturday evening, as the war in Gaza enters its fourth month.
He added, “One of the real areas of fear is the border between Israel and Lebanon, and we want to do everything possible to prevent the situation from worsening.”
Since the outbreak of war in Gaza, Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged daily bombings along the border. Fears of rising tensions along the front rose after the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, Saleh al-Kharuri, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Beirut on Tuesday.
On Saturday, the party announced it would launch more than 60 missiles at an “air control base” in northern Israel, putting it within the framework of an “initial response” to al-Aruri's assassination. In turn, Israel launched a series of attacks on areas in southern Lebanon.
Blinken noted, “Many of the conversations we will have with all of our allies and partners in the coming days will be around actions they can take using their influence and relationships to ensure this conflict does not escalate.”
After his talks in Istanbul with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he hinted at the “key role” Turkey could play in the matter.
The war between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which entered its fourth month on Sunday, is raising fears that violence is escalating not only along the Israel-Lebanon border, but also in Iraq, Syria and the Red Sea.
Israel vowed to “destroy” Hamas after the Palestinian movement launched an unprecedented offensive in the south of the Hebrew state on October 7, which led to the deaths of some 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on official Israeli figures. Also, about 250 people were captured and held hostage, 132 of whom are still inside the Strip.
On the other hand, Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, along with ground attacks, has killed 22,722 people as of October 27, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.
Blinken stressed the need to “prevent an escalation of the conflict, increase humanitarian assistance, reduce civilian casualties, work for lasting regional peace and progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Visions of the “day after” the end of the war in Gaza, including the reconstruction and management of the territory, are expected to be central to Blinken's talks with his Arab partners. A permanent ceasefire is the priority.
After Jordan, Blinken will travel to Qatar, which brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in late November that allowed the release of hostages from Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Blinken will finish his day in Abu Dhabi before flying to Saudi Arabia on Monday and then to Israel, where he is expected to hold talks that he insists will “not be easy”.
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