The United States has embarked on a second round of consultations in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, in an attempt to achieve a “humanitarian pause” in the Gaza Strip. After the failure of his meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahuwho reiterated Israel’s refusal to stop the war, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited Amman this Saturday, where he met with several representatives of countries in the region. Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, along with Palestinian representatives, called for a immediate ceasefire, the increase in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Strip and solutions to put an end to the dangerous deterioration that threatens the security of the region in the face of the escalation of the conflict. The Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman al-Safadinoted that the meeting aimed to unite “efforts aimed at stopping the Israeli war against Gaza and the humanitarian catastrophe it is causing.”
Blinken arrived at the meeting empty-handed, after Netanyahu linked any type of temporary ceasefire with the release sine qua non of the 242 hostages that are still in the hands of Hamas.
Following his visit to Tel Aviv, fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants intensified, along with Israeli airstrikes, which hit a ambulance convoy who was heading to al-Shifa hospital and a United Nations refugee agency school (UNRWA), which hosted thousands of civilians. Blinken expressed that a pause in the conflict would not only alleviate the worsening conditions in Gaza, but would leave room for discuss a post-conflict future, to discuss what authority could replace Hamas in the Strip and under what conditions. The Palestinian Authority – which governs the West Bank -, international organizations or powers in the region, are among the possibilities that Blinken and US officials will lower to control the security of the Gaza Strip once the Israeli offensive ends, although for now these ideas have been received with little enthusiasm among Arab leaders.
In Amman, Blinken also met with representatives of UNRWA, who have insisted on increasing the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip, especially combustible y material sanitario to be able to assist the wounded. Since the start of the war on October 7, 77 employees of the organization have been killed in Gaza by Israeli attacks.
Blinken held a bilateral meeting with the interim prime minister of the Lebanon, Najib Mikati, whom he thanked for his leadership in “preventing Lebanon from being dragged into a war that the Livanese people do not want.” The head of American diplomacy thus alluded to the speech of the leader of the Shiite party Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah – backed by Iran and who supports Hamas – who has great influence over Lebanon. Nasrallah dismissed the war as over, although he made clear his intention to continue exerting pressure on Israel’s northern border. A few hours after his speech on Friday, Hezbollah intensified its attacks on Israeli military positions, with heavier missiles. Blinken also met with the Qatari Foreign Minister, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country has become the leading negotiator for the release of Hamas hostages and has also mediated to allow the departure of more than 600 foreign nationals from the Gaza Strip. None of the leaders made any statements after the meeting, although Al Thani participated in a subsequent group meeting, along with his counterparts from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The ministers denounced the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which according to them, “constitutes an illegal collective punishment against the Palestinian people“. They also expressed their rejection of the civilian cost of the Israeli military operation, which has already caused 9,227 Palestinian civilian deaths and reiterated the urgency of increasing the entry of humanitarian aid.