Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Gaza, 15 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Blinken meets with Saudi’s MBS amid Israel-Hamas war

Jerusalem/Cairo, Oct 15 (EFE).- United States secretary of state Antony Blinken said he held a “very productive” meeting with the Saudi Arabian crown prince and prime minister Mohamed Bin Salman on Sunday.

A statement from a spokesman for the US state department, Matthew Miller, said Blinken highlighted the US’ “unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing the conflict from spreading.”

Blinken and bin Salman also “affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians and to advancing stability across the Middle East and beyond,” Miller added.

An Israeli armoured vehicle drives past a group of soldiers at a road near the border with Gaza, southern Israel, 15 October 2023. EFE/EPA/ABIR SULTAN

The US’ chief diplomat is visiting the Middle East in a bid to deescalate the violence unfolding in Israel and Palestine, condemning the “terrorist attacks in Israel in the strongest possible terms” while also reaffirming the US’ “solidarity with the government and people of Israel.”

Palestinian militants from Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip, launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing over 1,300 people. 

Oct. 7 was the deadliest day in Israel’s history. At least 120 hostages were also taken, according to the Israeli government.

More than 100 people have died over the past week as rockets have continued to be fired from Gaza into Israel. 

Men remove a body from the site of an Israeli rocket attack in Al-Shati refugee camp in the west of Gaza City, 14 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Israel has responded with a relentless bombing campaign on the heavily populated enclave that has killed over 2,300 people and injured more than 9,000, according to Palestinian health officials in Gaza.

The death toll in Gaza in the past seven days has already exceeded that of the war in 2014, which lasted two months, making it the deadliest in Gaza’s history.

Israel has also imposed a total siege of Gaza – which has been under Israeli blockade since 2006 – warning that it won’t be lifted until the hostages are freed.

On Saturday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his forces amassing in southern Israel near the border with Gaza to prepare for “the next stage” of the conflict, as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) warned it plans to attack the Strip by “land, air and sea,” without providing any specific details on when such an attack would take place.

Rockets are launched from the coast of the Gaza Strip towards Israel by militants of the Ezz Al-Din Al Qassam militia, the military wing of the Hamas movement, Gaza City, 14 October 2023. EFE/EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Tens of thousands of people in Gaza have been heading south as they flee northern areas of the Strip after Israeli authorities issued evacuation orders ahead of the anticipated ground operation.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has condemned Israel’s evacuation orders as “horrendous”, while Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said it would amount to a “second Nakba” – referring to the mass displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the war unleashed by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, an event known in Palestine as the “Nakba”, Arabic for “catastrophe”. 

Human rights groups have also denounced the orders, saying they will exacerbate the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the Gaza Strip. 

Blinken’s trip, which began Thursday with meetings with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Isaac Herzog, has also taken him to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, while he also traveled to Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt. EFE