The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Thursday, arrived in Israel on a trip that’s meant to show support following weekend’s unprecedented surprise attacks by Hamas.
Among other things, Blinken will seek the release of hostages including Americans kidnapped by Hamas fighters.
Blinken is also expected to urge restraint and seek safe passage for Gaza’s civilians ahead of a possible Israeli ground offensive.
Latest reports say at least 1,200 Israelis died in the attack, and over 1,100 Palestinians have died in air strikes on Gaza. Some 22 US citizens are also known to have died in Israel.
Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation by the US, took up to 150 people hostage when its fighters breached the border fence in several places in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and launched the most serious cross-border attack Israel has faced in a generation.
The US Secretary of State is also expected to meet Israeli President, Isaac Herzog on Thursday morning and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day.
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On Friday, he will meet Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Jordanian capital Amman.
US President Joe Biden earlier said he had made it clear to Netanyahu that Israel “must operate by the rules of war” in its response to Hamas’ attacks.
He, however, said Israel had a right and a duty to respond, and called the attacks an “act of sheer evil”.
Israel has said that a total blockade – including on food, fuel and other essentials – imposed on Gaza since the attacks would not be lifted until hostages are freed.