Antony J. Blinken, the US secretary of state, met with leaders in Jordan on Sunday as part of a one-day tour of the Middle East aimed at reducing the risk of the war in Gaza spreading to the region.
Blinken met separately in Amman with King Abdullah II, Jordan’s ruler, and Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister. He then visited a warehouse with boxes of canned food that were to be taken to Gaza on trucks organized by the United Nations World Food Programme.
Sheri Ritsema-Anderson, the UN resident coordinator in Jordan, told reporters that in her 15 years working in the Middle East, she had never seen a humanitarian situation as dire as that in Gaza, describing it as an “epic catastrophe.” .
He said some 220 trucks with various types of aid and fuel now arrive in Gaza daily, but that is only a fraction of the amount needed.
Before the Hamas attacks on October 7 that led Israel to launch airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza, forcing most of the territory’s 2.2 million Palestinians to flee their homes, between 600 and 800 trucks carrying supplies entered Gaza every day. The territory has been under a de facto blockade by Israel and Egypt for more than 16 years.
Blinken praised the U.N. food program and said it was doing its job “at tremendous risk,” referring to the dangers posed by Israeli airstrikes. And he emphasized the need to effectively distribute aid “throughout Gaza.” Aid trucks are entering Gaza through the southern border crossings, after being inspected by Israeli authorities. Although Israel has been withdrawing some combat forces from northern Gaza, much of the aid does not reach the north, the most devastated part of the strip.
Blinken was in Turkey on Saturday and met with his Turkish counterpart and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he discussed the need to prevent the Gaza conflict from spreading, among other issues, according to a State Department statement. He later met with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on the island of Crete.
Speaking to reporters, Blinken said “we want to do everything we can to make sure we don’t see an escalation” in violence between Israel and Hezbollah. He also indicated that Turkey could play a role in a plan for post-war Gaza.
“I think it is clear from our conversations today that Turkey is prepared to play a positive and productive role in the work that must be done the day after the conflict ends,” he said.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top diplomat, is visiting the Middle East separately and was in Lebanon on Saturday, where he said his priority was to “avoid regional escalation and advance diplomatic efforts” for peace in the region. Israel has been involved in a second low-level conflict with the powerful Lebanese militia Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and another proxy for Iran.
That second front has been largely contained within the border areas of northern Israel and southern Lebanon, and both sides have generally limited their attacks to a few kilometers from the border, far from major cities like Tel Aviv or Beirut.
But the killing of a top Hamas commander, Saleh al-Arouri, last week in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, in a neighborhood that is a Hezbollah stronghold, raised fears that Hezbollah could respond with a more forceful attack of its own against the main central cities. Israel. The attack was attributed by Hamas and Hezbollah to Israel. Lebanese and American officials have also attributed the attack to Israel, although Israel has not confirmed its role.