U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is trying to build support among Israel’s Middle Eastern neighbors to plan a postwar future for Gaza, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu rejected the U.S.’s calls for a humanitarian pause.
Blinken’s first stop was Lebanon, which hosts Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite Islamist militant group that has seen mounting tensions with Israel on the border with Lebanon, the Associated Press reported. Hezbollah’s leader on Friday threw his backing behind Palestinian militants in Gaza in his first major speech since the Hamas attacks.
Blinken thanked Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati for his leadership “in preventing Lebanon from being pulled into a war that the Lebanese people do not want,” the U.S. State Department said.
After a meeting with the head of the U.N. agency in charge of assisting Palestinian refugees — which has seen about 70 staffers killed — Blinken thanked Phillipe Lazzarini for his group’s “extraordinary work every single day as a lifeline to Palestinians in Gaza and a great, a great cost.”
All other interlocutors and officials — including foreign ministers of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the chair of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee — have condemned Israel’s tactics against Hamas and the unlawful punishment of the Palestinians.
In Beirut, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told reporters that Blinken “should stop the aggression and should not come up with ideas that cannot be implemented.”
Blinken is set to travel to Turkey on Sunday to meet with President Recep Tayyep Erdoğan and top officials on Monday, the State Department said. Erdoğan said on Saturday that he is breaking contact with Netanyahu but is not cutting relations with Israel over Gaza, after Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israel’s sustained bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip.