Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv as Israel mobilizes along its border with Gaza

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel to engage in diplomatic discussions amidst a dramatic increase in violence with Hamas militants based in Gaza.

Diplomatic mission: Blinken’s visit to Tel Aviv marks the first leg of a diplomatic tour in the Middle East following heightened tensions and attacks from Hamas militants based in Gaza.
* Blinken will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah as part of his diplomatic endeavor.
* Part of the agenda includes securing freedom for hostages estimated to be about 150 people, including an unknown number of Americans, kidnapped by Hamas during last weekend’s incursion into Israel.
* Later, Blinken is expected to ask Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the violence, a critical but complex move given Hamas’ tag as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel.

Intensified conflict: This recent wave of violence began during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, with militant infiltration into Israel from Gaza using various means, firing thousands of rockets toward Israel.
* Israel responded with missile strikes into Gaza and continues to mobilize troops along its border with the Gaza Strip.
* More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed due to these attacks, with Palestinian casualties reaching 1,200 according to Gaza officials.

The civilian impact: The ongoing conflict has caused dire humanitarian conditions, with civilians bearing much of the burden.
* More than 338,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes, as per the U.N.
* Civilians in Gaza, under constant bombardment from Israel, experienced further hardship with more than 2 million Palestinians losing vital utilities and supplies due to Israel’s full siege of the territory.

Additional effects: Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza since 2007 has only worsened conditions for Palestinian civilians with closed passages leaving many stranded.
* Institutions like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency have lost employees amidst the violence.
* Simultaneously, Israel is mourning victims from a Hamas attack that saw over 200 people killed, with fears of further violence as Hamas threatens hostage executions corresponding to Gaza civilian deaths.

View original article on NPR

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