Blinken urges protection of civilians on both sides amid green light for ground incursion

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday Oct. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday Oct. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, pool)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for protection for civilians in both the Gaza Strip and Israel as the Israeli military ordered half of the Palestinian territory’s population to evacuate in advance of an expected ground assault.

Blinken met his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, in Riyadh as he began a third day of intense Middle East diplomacy aimed at preventing the Israel-Hamas war from expanding into a regional conflict and fueling a humanitarian crisis.

Both stress the importance of minimizing the harm to civilians as Israel prepared for an anticipated incursion against Hamas a week after the militant group’s unprecedented assault on Israel.

“As Israel pursues its legitimate right, to defending its people and to trying to ensure that this never happens again, it is vitally important that all of us look out for civilians, and we’re working together to do exactly that,” Blinken says before heading to the United Arab Emirates for similar discussions.

“None of us want to see suffering by civilians on any side, whether it’s in Israel, whether it’s in Gaza, whether it’s anywhere else,” he says.

An American official says that the US did not ask Israel to slow or hold off on the evacuation plan. The official said the discussions with Israeli leaders did stress the importance of taking into account the safety of civilians as Israel’s military moved to enforce the evacuation demand.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about internal discussions, says the Israeli leaders acknowledged the guidance and took it under advisement.

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