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War on Gaza: Blinken meets with Israeli leaders in bid to avert regional war

The US secretary of state's visit follows meetings with Arab leaders who insist on a 'practical pathway' to a viable Palestinian state
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference with Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, 7 January 2024 (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Israeli leaders on Tuesday in an attempt to defuse regional tensions and stem the spread of the assault on Gaza into a regional conflict, after the Israeli military said that the hostilities would continue all year. 

Blinken’s visit, his fourth since the Israeli onslaught began on 7 October, is part of a Middle East tour intended to prevent a broader regional war and to discuss the "way forward" in the ongoing Israeli assault on the besieged enclave.

The secretary of state said that he would press the Israeli government "on the absolute imperative to do more to protect civilians and to do more to make sure that humanitarian assistance is getting into the hands of those who need it".

During his visit, Blinken will also push for a consensus on the future governance of Gaza, based on his prior meetings with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Greece and Turkey.

However, Israeli calls for the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza remains a key point of contention between Israeli and Arab leaders.

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Following his meetings with regional leaders, Blinken said that they supported further integration and with Israel, but only if this included a “practical pathway” to a viable Palestinian state.

The meeting comes amid escalating Israeli attacks on senior Hamas and Hezbollah figures in Lebanon and Syria.

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Three members of Hezbollah were killed in a targeted attack on their vehicle in the town of Ghandourieyh in south Lebanon on Tuesday.

This follows a similar attack on Monday, when an Israeli strike killed senior Hezbollah commander, Wissam al-Tawil, in the village of Majdal Selm in Lebanon.

On Monday, the Israeli military said it killed Hassan Hakashah in Beit Jinn in Syria, who they claimed was a "central figure" responsible for recent Hamas rocket launches directed at Israel.

Ahead of Blinken’s visit, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant outlined plans for postwar governance in Gaza.

While the plans did not call for the forced displacement of Palestinians from the enclave, they excluded any role for the Palestinian Authority (PA), contradicting US calls for handing it control over the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s ongoing onslaught on the besieged Gaza strip has killed 23,210 Palestinians since 7 October, with at least 59,167 wounded and most of the population of 2.3 million displaced.

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