US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that during a trip to Israel, he will discuss “concrete steps” that could be taken to minimize harm to Gaza residents, amid increased concern about rising casualties in Israel’s shelling of the territory.
Blinken told reporters moments before departing on his second Middle East trip in less than a month that conversations on the future of Gaza when Hamas is defeated, as well as strategies to prevent the violence from spreading, will be key areas of focus during his trip.
The top American diplomat, who will visit Jordan following Israel, reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself but said both the country and the United States had a responsibility to ensure protection for civilians caught in harm’s way.
“We will be talking about concrete steps that can and should be taken to minimize harm to men, women and children in Gaza, and this is something that the United States is committed to. I’m not going to get into the details here, but it’s very much on the agenda,” Blinken said.
“When I see a Palestinian child, a boy, a girl pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building that hits me in the gut … So this is something that we have an obligation to respond to, and we will,” he added.
The latest war in the decades-old conflict began when Hamas fighters broke through the border on Oct. 7. Israel says they killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took more than 200 hostages in the deadliest day of its 75-year history.
Israel’s ensuing bombardment of the small Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million has killed at least 9,061 people, including 3,760 children and 2,326 women, according to Gaza health authorities.
Though the United States and other Western nations have traditionally supported Israel, harrowing images of bodies in the rubble and hellish conditions inside Gaza have triggered appeals for restraint and street protests around the world.