Blinken: Ending Israel-Hamas war ‘as quickly as possible’ top priority for US in 2024

Blinken: Ending Israel-Hamas war ‘as quickly as possible’ top priority for US in 2024
Blinken: Ending Israel-Hamas war ‘as quickly as possible’ top priority for US in 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that bringing the Israel-Hamas war to an end “as quickly as possible” is a top priority for the Biden administration in the year ahead.

The goal was listed as the number four priority set by Blinken for 2024 during a year-end press conference. Supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia, combating China and coalition building are priorities listed ahead of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in previous years was even lower down the Biden administration’s list of priorities.

“It’s clear that this conflict needs to move — will move — to a lower intensity phase,” Blinken said. “We expect to see, and want to see, a shift to more targeted operations, with a smaller number of forces that are really focused on dealing with the leadership of Hamas, the tunnel network and a few other different things.”

“As that happens, you’ll see the harm done to civilians decrease significantly,” the US secretary of state added.

The Biden administration has intensified its rhetoric on the need for Israel to wind down high-intensity fighting in Gaza while being careful not to publicly set a timeline for when this must happen. Privately, visiting Biden officials have told Israel that they expect the phasing to lower intensity fighting to begin in January, two US and Israeli officials told The Times of Israel.

Blinken said Wednesday that the US will continue to provide assistance to Israel to “ensure that what happened on October 7 can never happen again.”

He reiterated that the US will continue to engage with Israel in order to minimize harm to civilians, secure the release of all hostages, prevent the conflict from spreading and move toward a “durable, lasting peace.”
Blinken has stressed the Biden administration’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in each of the dozen-plus phone calls he has held with counterparts around the world in recent days, according to readouts issued by his office.

The US has viewed Hamas’s potential eradication in Gaza as an opportunity to reunite the Strip and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, in what could pave a path toward a two-state solution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the Israeli government are deeply opposed to the idea, but Jerusalem is increasingly reliant on support from the US, especially as it seeks to prevent the opening of a second front with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Blinken added during Wednesday’s press conference that the US is interested and is working to secure another hostage deal and that Israel wants one too but that “the problem is Hamas,” which reneged on the terms of the previous agreement.

Separately, US President Joe Biden told reporters that “there’s no expectation at this point” of an imminent hostage deal but “we’re pushing it.”

Traveling with Biden to Wisconsin, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, “These are very serious discussions and negotiations and we hope that they lead somewhere.”

After he was pressed repeatedly during the press conference on what the US was doing to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza, Blinken hit back, saying that more attention by the media and the international community should be placed on Hamas’s agency in the conflict.

“What is striking to me is that even as we hear many countries urging an end to this conflict… I hear virtually no one demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This would be over tomorrow if Hamas does that,” Blinken said.

“How can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor and only demands made of the victim? It would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas to do what is necessary to end this,” he added.

The secretary insisted that “any other country in the world faced with what Israel suffered on October 7 would do the same thing.”

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas terrorists rampaged through southern communities, killing some 1,200 people — mostly civilians massacred in brutal atrocities — and taking around 240 hostages to Gaza.

Israel has responded with a massive aerial and ground campaign that has killed 19,667 people in Gaza, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry, which doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants and includes civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. The IDF did acknowledge earlier this month that the ratio of civilians to combatants killed is two to one.


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