Blinken works to prevent wider Middle East conflict amid Gaza war

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel this week, focusing on efforts to prevent the Gaza war from escalating regionally.

Blinken’s Middle East diplomatic mission, which began in Jordan and Qatar on Sunday, also includes stops in the West Bank and Egypt.

During a press conference in Doha, Blinken emphasized the critical nature of the situation. “This conflict could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and suffering,” he stated before departing for Abu Dhabi.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in remarks to the Wall Street Journal, underscored the breadth of the challenges facing Israel. “We are fighting an axis, not a single enemy,” Gallant said, noting the threat from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other Iran-backed groups.

The conflict in Gaza, triggered by a Hamas attack on Israeli towns on Oct. 7, has escalated rapidly. Israel reports the initial attack killed about 1,200 people and resulted in 240 hostages.

According to Palestinian health officials, the Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed 22,835 Palestinians, with 111 deaths and 250 injuries reported in the last 24 hours. The fighting has displaced much of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, devastated civilian infrastructure, and led to severe shortages of basic necessities.

Blinken plans to urge Israeli officials to minimize civilian casualties and allow Palestinians to return to their homes in Gaza.