Blinken tells Israel to avoid ‘further civilian harm’ in Gaza

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Israel to avoid further civilian harm in its war on Gaza and to seek a path towards the creation of a Palestinian state as a way to resolve the long-running wider conflict.

In a Tel Aviv meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, Blinken “stressed the importance of avoiding further civilian harm and protecting civilian infrastructure in Gaza”, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

He reaffirmed US “support for Israel’s right to prevent the terrorist attacks of October 7 from being repeated”, Miller added, and “reiterated the need to ensure lasting, sustainable peace for Israel and the region, including by the realisation of a Palestinian state”.

The top US diplomat is on his fourth visit to the Middle East since the war broke out on October 7 when Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel that killed 1,139 people, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel responded with a devastating bombardment and a ground invasion of Gaza that has destroyed much of the territory and killed more than 23,200 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian officials.

The secretary of state voiced hope that, after the war, Israel could push on with its efforts towards regional integration following its US-brokered normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and other states.

“I think there actually are real opportunities there, but we have to get through this very challenging moment,” Blinken said after meeting Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

On Monday in Riyadh, he said countries in the region wanted integration with Israel but only if plans to normalise relations included a “practical pathway” to a future Palestinian state.

Blinken was to meet with families of captives taken by Hamas and discuss the “relentless efforts” to bring them back. Several dozen protesters gathered outside the hotel where he was having meetings and called for a ceasefire to secure the release of the captives.

Israel said that of about 240 people seized by Palestinian armed groups on October 7, 132 are still being held in Gaza and 25 have died in captivity.

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