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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Israel for 4th time since start of war

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves Monday as he disembarks from his plane after landing at Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv, Israel. Blinken's official visit to Israel, his fourth since the October 7 Hamas attack, is part of his trip to the region. U.S. Embassy Jerusalem handout photo by David Azagury for EPA/EFE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves Monday as he disembarks from his plane after landing at Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv, Israel. Blinken's official visit to Israel, his fourth since the October 7 Hamas attack, is part of his trip to the region. U.S. Embassy Jerusalem handout photo by David Azagury for EPA/EFE

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel, ahead of key meetings Tuesday, where he is expected to discuss Israel's next phase in its war against Hamas, while urging Israeli defense officials to do more to protect civilians in Gaza.

Blinken landed in Tel Aviv on Monday following a three days of meetings with Arab leaders in the Middle East during stops in Turkey, Greece, Jordan and Qatar, where he warned Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza "could easily metastasize" to cause more suffering.

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On Monday, Blinken reiterated his concerns during a visit to the United Arab Emirates in Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and I met today in Al 'Ula and discussed the importance of urgently addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza and preventing further spread of the conflict," Blinken wrote Monday in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The crown prince "stressed the importance of stopping military operations, intensifying humanitarian efforts, and working to create conditions for the return of stability," according to the government-run Saudi Press Agency.

Blinken told reporters Monday, during a press conference before heading to Israel, that every leader he has met with so far is determined to prevent Israel's war with Hamas from spreading.

"I think there's broad agreement on a few basic objectives: first, that Israel and Israelis should be able to live in peace and security, free from the fear of terrorist attacks or aggression from any of their neighbors; second, that the West Bank and Gaza should be united under Palestinian-led governance; third, the future of the region needs to be one of integration, not division and not conflict; and fourth, for that to happen, we need to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."

The White House has maintained its position as Israel's strongest ally amid international pressure for a cease-fire.

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This is Blinken's fourth trip to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began on Oct. 7. On Saturday, he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Jordanian King Abdullah II. On Sunday, the U.S. diplomat met with Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani in Doha where both Blinken and Thani reaffirmed their support for Palestinians to be allowed to return to their homes in Gaza.

"They cannot and they must not be pressed to leave Gaza," Blinken said. "We reject the statement by some Israeli ministers and lawmakers calling for a resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

Approximately 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza -- which is more than 85% of its population -- have been displaced, according to the United Nations relief agency of Palestine refugees.

Since Hamas' surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, that killed approximately 1,200 Israelis with another 240 taken hostage, nearly 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's war in Gaza.

Following Tuesday's meetings in Tel Aviv, Blinken will travel to the West Bank and Egypt.

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