Israel-Hamas War: US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken, Envoy Jack Lew To Arrive In Israel As Biden Calls For Pause

Jack Lew, a veteran of Obama and Clinton administrations, was confirmed as the Ambassador of US to Israel earlier this week. The post had been vacant amid partisan divisions in the US Senate since July.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

In the latest high-level visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the newly-appointed envoy to Israel Jack Lew are travelling to the country to Thursday. 

In a statement, US Department of State on Wednesday said Blinken will reiterate the US support to Israel in the war against Hamas and also emphasise the respect to international humanitarian law. 

"In Israel, Secretary Blinken will reiterate U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism consistent with international humanitarian law and discuss efforts to safeguard U.S. citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, work to secure the immediate release of hostages, increase the pace and volume of humanitarian assistance entering Gaza for distribution to Palestinian civilians, and prevent the conflict from spreading," said the Department of State. 

Blinken's visit is part of a multi-nation visit that would also see him travel to Jordan, Japan, South Korea, India. In New Delhi, Blinken would join US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to meet Foreign and Defence Ministers S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh of India under the '2+2 Dialogue' framework. 

The Blinken-Lew visit to Israel comes closely after US President Joe Biden, who has unequivocally condemned the Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7 and has completely backed Israel's right to defend itself, called for a humanitarian pause in the ongoing fighting. 

"I think we need a pause," said Biden on Wednesday when a speech was disrupted by a protester calling for a ceasefire. 

Throughout the Israel-Hamas War, which began when Hamas mounted the deadliest attack ever on Israel that killed at least 1,400, injured over 5,400, and took more than 220 hostages, Biden and his administration has supported the Israeli war against Hamas, but has also pressed for increased attention to the humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip where widespread civilian casualties have taken place and hundreds of thousands have been displaced from the ongoing fighting. The US efforts have led to the opening of water supply to Gaza, increased supply of aid through the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border, and a narrower ground operation in place of a full-fledged invasion of Gaza. 

The CNN reported that Blinken's visit would involve conversations with the Israeli leaders about the humanitarian crises in Gaza. The Biden administration has stated that the Hamas has to be destroyed, but has also stated since the beginning that Hamas does not represent Palestinians and rights of the civilians have to be respected. Countries like the United Kingdom and India have also joined the United States in sending aid to Gaza and calling for respect to human rights there.

"President Joe Biden's administration has ramped up its public rhetoric about the need for Israel to abide by international humanitarian law, but it has not condemned the country's actions in Gaza. That is expected to be a key aspect of Blinken’s conversations with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as will the need for Israel not to become an occupying force in Gaza," reported CNN.

CNN further quoted State Department spokesperson Matt Miller as saying that Blinken would also seek an update on the Israeli military objectives and plans to achieve them. Moreover, he would also talk about increasing and sustaining that increased flow of aid to Gaza.

Miller also said that the Biden administration has also expressed concern regarding the Israeli settler-Palestinian violence in the West Bank which he described as "incredibly destabilising" and counter-productive to Israel's long-term security.

Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War, the military has been shelling Gaza, particularly the northern part where the ground forces are now fighting pitched battles. While a number of Hamas leaders and facilities have been taken down in these attacks, widespread civilian casualties have also been reported. The latest figures released by the Hamas-run Gazan authorities say at least 8,796 have been killed in Israeli attacks, of whom at least 3,648 are children. The total number of injured has been put at 21,543.