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Updated January 4th, 2024 at 11:55 IST

Blinken heads to Israel to contain Mideast crisis as fears of regional war spillover grow

United States largely remains ‘incredibly concerned’ about the Israel Hamas conflict spreading broadly into a regional war.

Zaini Majeed
israel US
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. | Image:AP
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United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is heading to Israel on Thursday, January 4 amid the risks of the Israel Hamas war spillover into a broader regional conflict. Tensions have escalated after an alleged Israeli airstrike in the Labanese capital of Beirut killed Saleh Al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau. Labanese militant group Hezbollah vowed for a significant retaliatory response over the assassination of the Hamas leader.

According to an Israeli news site Walla, Iran backed Hezbollah, with a presence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, pledged a dire consequence for the killing of the Hamas leader, saying that the “expected response includes launching long-range missiles at targets in Israel.” Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV responded to the attack in a statement saying that it is going to avenge the death of Al-Arouri, who was “martyred in a treacherous Zionist airstrike in Beirut.” Israel, although, has refrained from officially claiming the responsibility of the strike.

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Blinken boarded the flight to Israel on Thursday to forge the diplomatic efforts to felicitate the delivery of the humanitarian aid to the besieged strip of Gaza, and to pressurise Israel to mitigate the mounting civilian casualties in the heavily ruined enclave.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane and waves. (AP)

The United States largely remains ‘incredibly concerned’ about the Israel Hamas conflict spreading broadly into a regional war as Iranian empowered ‘Axis of resistance’ threatened retaliation against the Jewish state of Israel for its strikes on Palestinian officials on the foreign soil. Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari did not mention Arouri’s death directly but said that the Israeli military is “focused and remain focused on fighting against Hamas.”

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“We are on high readiness for any scenario,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.

Labanese foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, in an interview with the American broadcaster said that he has been pushing Hezbollah to not drag Lebanon into a full-fledged war with the state of Israel. He, however, acknowledged that the Lebanese government exercised little to no control on the Iran aligned militia. Lebanon, he said in a broadcast, does not want ant war, but added that conflict may not be limited to the border region as skirmishes have broken out between the armed militants and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a ground invasion into the Gaza strip.

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Crowd gathers outside the damaged building after a massive explosion in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon. (AP)

Blinken to meet with Turkish officials

Blinken, who is departing for Middle East tour with a senior advisor to the US president Joe Biden, Amos Hochstein, and will make a stopover in Israel. The challenging feat for the US Secretary of State would be diffusing the tense build up in the region. In an official statement, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that US Secretary of State Blinken will be visiting Ankara and is expected to hold bilateral meetings with the Turkish officials. It remains unclear if the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold talks with the US Secretary of State.

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In view of the warnings fired by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to the Israeli military, United States sent “very direct message” to the armed entities that now “is not the time to think of escalating further.” At a press briefing, spokesperson for the US State Department, Mathew Miller, told reporters, “You've seen us take deterrence steps to deliver that message. You've seen us take diplomatic steps to deliver it. We'll continue to deliver it.”

Watch the Daily Press Briefing from the State Department. https://t.co/junI8ujaKu

— Matthew Miller (@StateDeptSpox) January 3, 2024

Palestinian demonstrators wave Hamas flags and shout slogans during a protest following the killing of top Hamas official Saleh Arouri in Beirut, in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AP)

As regional tensions ratcheted, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said that it was increasingly concerned about the potential escalation of the Israel Hamas war after two explosions rocked sites near the tomb of the Iranian IRGC commander Qassem Suleimani, as well as the strikes on Beirut. UNIFIL urged all parties involved to exercise utmost restraint. Meanwhile, an intense negotiations are brokered by Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, Arab country Egypt and the United States between the Israel and Hamas to secure the release of the hostages from Gaza. The US State Department labelled freeing the hostages from the captivity of Hamas as the ‘top priority.’ No details have been publicly released.
 

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Published January 4th, 2024 at 11:48 IST

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