AP and Reuters

US Secretary of State Blinken meets Jordanian king in Amman


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman, the second stop of his most extensive Middle East tour yet as Israel prepares for a sweeping ground offensive in Gaza, and he urged people in Gaza city to evacuate to the south.

His demand, which the United Nations said would be impossible to carry out “without devastating humanitarian consequences”, comes a day after Blinken visited Israel and held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the conflict.

U.S. President Joe Biden dispatched his top diplomat to the region, engulfed in its most serious escalation in years, following an attack by Palestinian Hamas militants who rampaged through Israeli towns killing 1,200 Israelis.

Blinken has expanded his trip from Israel and Jordan to include all of the Gulf Arab countries and Egypt, making it his largest tour of the region since taking office in January 2021.

On Friday alone, the top American diplomat is set to visit three more countries: Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where he will spend the night. Before departing for Doha, he is set to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman.

“Across each of these engagements, we’ll continue pressing countries to help prevent the conflict from spreading, and to use their leverage with Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages,” Blinken told a news conference in Tel Aviv.

“We’ll also discuss how we can continue to make real our affirmative vision for a region that’s more peaceful, more prosperous, more secure, more integrated. And in fact, that is the choice, and the choice in some ways has been made even more stark by the actions of Hamas on Saturday.”

Washington says at least 25 Americans were killed in the Hamas attacks and more are believed to be among the scores of hostages taken to Gaza. U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Steve Gillen traveled with Blinken to Israel and will stay to support efforts to free them, Blinken said.

Gaza moved closer to a humanitarian catastrophe on Thursday as the death toll rose and vital supplies ran low after Israel imposed a siege on the enclave. Israel said there would be no humanitarian break until all hostages were freed.

But a ground invasion of Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people and now under siege by Israel, poses serious risks with Hamas holding scores of hostages kidnapped in the assault.

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