On first stop in visiting Mideast leaders, Blinken mourns Americans killed in Gaza conflict

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday pledged " ironclad U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas' terrorist attacks" as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy Antony Blinken/X
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday pledged " ironclad U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas' terrorist attacks" as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy Antony Blinken/X

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent an emotional day with Israeli leaders on Thursday before preparing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

After that visit to further communicate U.S. support and resolve for Israel after it was attacked by Hamas militants, Blinken will travel to meet leaders of other regional nations, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.


Upon arriving in Tel Aviv on Thursday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken first shared the latest news about what he said were at least 25 Americans who had been killed amid the conflict.

Blinken announced the death toll, which he said was up by three from 22 reported previously.

"Tragically, the number of innocent lives claimed by Hamas's heinous attacks continues to rise," Blinken said in the joint .


"We joined families in Israel, in the United States, around the world mourning their immeasurable loss."

Later in the afternoon, the National Security Council's John Kirby announced that the number of Americans killed in the fighting between Israel and Hamas had risen to 27.

Standing next to each other during a joint news conference after meeting each other in private, Blinken and Netanyahu spoke to alleged war crimes Hamas has committed during its attack on Israel, which started on Saturday, including the burning of bodies and killing of families after breaking into their homes.

"Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilization," Netanyahu said. "President Biden was correct in calling this sheer evil. Hamas is ISIS and just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed. Hamas should be treated exactly the way ISIS was treated.

"They should be spat out from the community of nations. No leader should meet them. No country should harbor them."

Blinken, referring to his Jewish heritage and how his family fled Russia and World War II concentration camps, said he felt Hamas attacks on Israel on a personal level.

"It's impossible for me to look at the photos of families that were killed ... and not think of my own children," Blinken said. "This was just one of Hamas's countless acts of terror. In a litany of brutality and inhumanity that brings to mind the worst of ISIS. ... How are we even to understand this?"


Blinken went on to say that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people and what they want for their future but has been repressive and allowed the Palestinian citizens to pay the price for their actions.

"Hamas has only one agenda -- to destroy Israel and murder Jews," Blinken said. "No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens."

Later Thursday after meeting with some of the families of the American victims killed or taken hostage, Blinken spoke about their pain and the "unrelenting agony" of uncertainty they face.

"The enormity of their anguish, their loss, is immeasurable," he said. "For the families of the missing, there's an unrelenting agony of not knowing the fate of their loved ones -- something that I don't think most of us can truly understand, truly contemplate, if you're not in their shoes.

"No one should have to endure what they're going through. There are so many families like them," he said. "The United States is one of more than 30 countries where family members, friends, entire communities are being forced to go through this wrenching experience because of Hamas's disdain for human life and basic human dignity."

Earlier in the day, Blinken pledged that the United States will always be by Israel's side, and he said Israel has the right to defend itself to make sure such an attack never happens again.


He also stressed that every precaution must be made to protect "every innocent life," appearing to point to the death of Palestinian civilians during Israel's counter-offensive.

"We mourn the loss of every innocent life, civilians of every faith and every nationality," Blinken said.

Upon touching down at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Blinken also said that the United States "stands with Israel and its people, and we will always stand -- resolutely -- against terrorism."

Blinken is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, a senior Palestinian Authority official announced.

The State Department also announced Thursday that Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Jordan and Qatar, after he leaves Israel.

His visit came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden told Jewish community leaders he had "not given up hope" on returning Americans taken hostage in Gaza to the United States.

Earlier in the week, Biden reiterated U.S. support for Israel and condemned the attack by Hamas as a "violation of every code of human morality."

Scenes from war: Fighting, destruction in Israel and Gaza

A man carries away the body of a child killed in Israeli bombardment after being rescued from the rubble of a building in Rafah in the southern of Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023. Photo by Ismail Muhammad/UPI | License Photo


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