U.S. Chief Diplomat Advocates for Civilian Safety as Israel Gears Up for Probable Gaza Offensive

by Ethan Kim
Humanitarian Aid Diplomacy

The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, heightened his diplomatic endeavors in the Middle East and other regions on Saturday, advocating for the safeguarding of civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip as tensions escalate to potentially widen the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken held discussions with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh and subsequently visited the United Arab Emirates. These meetings were part of his broader strategy to not only protect civilians caught in the crossfire but also to confront the escalating humanitarian disaster. In addition, he reached out to his Chinese counterpart to enlist Beijing’s help in preventing the conflict from engulfing the broader region.

The Biden administration, while not explicitly urging Israel to temper its actions following Hamas’s attack a week earlier, has been emphasizing adherence to international laws of armed conflict. In meetings with Saudi and Emirati officials, Blinken underscored the necessity for humanitarian aid and the provision of secure exit routes for those seeking to leave the Gaza Strip.

Additional Coverage on Israel-Hamas Conflict

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Israel to Discuss American Security Assistance
  • Blinken and Austin Reinforce U.S. Backing for Israel as Prospects of Ground Offensive in Gaza Increase
  • Trump Expresses Support for Netanyahu Amid Republican Criticism

An impending ground invasion by Israel threatens to exacerbate the already dire conditions for Gaza’s civilian population, who lack access to electricity, clean water, and humanitarian aid. Egyptian authorities stated that the southern Rafah crossing would reopen, offering a potential exit route for foreign nationals. Israel has meanwhile advised Palestinian civilians to relocate to the southern parts of Gaza as military operations against Hamas in Gaza City continue.

Blinken consulted with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seeking China’s influence to contain the conflict. Although the U.S. State Department did not divulge details of Wang’s reaction, it was conveyed that both nations have a mutual interest in maintaining regional stability.

In Riyadh, both Blinken and Prince Faisal emphasized the critical need to minimize civilian casualties as Israel readies for a likely ground operation against Hamas, a week after the militant group’s unprecedented assault on Israel.

The United States has not asked Israel to modify or postpone its evacuation strategy but has highlighted the significance of considering civilian safety in any military operation. Israeli authorities have acknowledged this advice.

Despite an agreement to allow Americans and other foreign nationals in Gaza to cross into Egypt via the Rafah border, the crossing remained closed as of Saturday. The U.S. State Department has meanwhile authorized non-essential personnel and their families to leave the American Embassy in Jerusalem and a facility in Tel Aviv.

Prince Faisal called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, emphasizing that unless concerted efforts are made to break the recurring cycle of violence, civilians on both sides will continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.

During his Middle East tour, which includes upcoming stops in Egypt and a return to Saudi Arabia, Blinken visited the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi—a complex comprising a mosque, a church, and a synagogue, symbolizing the three Abrahamic religions. He signed a tile inscribed with the phrase, “Light in the Darkness.”

Blinken has previously visited Israel, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain as part of his diplomatic mission.

Contributors to this report include Tara Copp, Colleen Long, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, and Baldor reporting from a U.S. military aircraft.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Diplomatic Efforts in Middle East

Who is spearheading the U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East?

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading the United States’ diplomatic outreach in the Middle East, with a focus on preventing the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating further.

What is the main objective of Antony Blinken’s diplomatic efforts?

The primary goal of Blinken’s diplomatic endeavors is to advocate for the protection of civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip. He is also addressing the humanitarian crisis and exploring ways to prevent the conflict from expanding.

With which foreign officials has Blinken held discussions?

Blinken has met with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh and made a stop in the United Arab Emirates. He has also consulted with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Has the Biden administration publicly urged Israel to restrain its actions?

No, the Biden administration has not publicly asked Israel to restrain its military actions against Hamas. However, it has emphasized Israel’s obligation to adhere to international laws of armed conflict.

What is the situation for civilians in the Gaza Strip?

The conditions for civilians in Gaza are dire, with many lacking access to basic necessities such as electricity, fresh water, and humanitarian aid. An Israeli ground invasion threatens to worsen these conditions.

Are there any plans for humanitarian assistance?

While the details are not fully specified, Blinken has stressed the necessity for humanitarian aid and safe passages for those wishing to leave Gaza during his meetings with Saudi and Emirati leaders.

What is the stance of other nations like China and Saudi Arabia on this issue?

While the U.S. State Department has not disclosed the response from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, it has been stated that both the U.S. and China have a mutual interest in regional stability. Saudi Arabia, as expressed by Prince Faisal, is committed to the protection of civilians and seeks an end to the cycle of violence.

What is the U.S. State Department advising for its non-emergency personnel?

The U.S. State Department has authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their family members from the American Embassy in Jerusalem and an office in Tel Aviv.

What has been the role of other countries in providing an exit for civilians?

Egyptian authorities have mentioned that the southern Rafah crossing would reopen to offer a potential exit route for foreign nationals. However, as of the report, the crossing remained closed.

What is Antony Blinken’s upcoming itinerary?

Blinken plans to return to Saudi Arabia and make a stop in Egypt. He has already visited Israel, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain as part of his diplomatic mission in the Middle East.

More about Diplomatic Efforts in Middle East

  • U.S. Department of State Official Statement
  • Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release
  • United Nations Reports on the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
  • The Biden Administration’s Policy on Israel-Hamas Conflict
  • China’s Foreign Ministry Statement on Middle East Stability

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SarahM October 15, 2023 - 12:25 am

Its good that someones paying attention to the humanitarian crisis. But just talking to leaders isn’t gonna be enough. People need aid, like now.

AlexP October 15, 2023 - 4:03 am

Blinken’s schedule is insane, covering so much ground. Hope it leads to some positive changes, but Im not holding my breath.

EmilyT October 15, 2023 - 6:17 am

So the US hasn’t asked Israel to restrain at all? That’s concerning. At least they’re talking about laws of armed conflict.

Mike87 October 15, 2023 - 7:36 am

China’s involved too? This could get complicated. Is the US and China actually gonna agree on something for once?

JohnDoe October 15, 2023 - 7:54 am

Wow, Blinken’s really moving fast on this. But whats the real goal here? Diplomacy is one thing but what actions will actually happen?


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